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New exhibit will explore local artist's 'art of transformation'

Melody Lynn Madden's exhibit opens at OMAH July 20; Lake Couchiching one of 'places that elicit an emotional response that in turn shapes the work'

Melody Lynn Madden knows a thing or two about the art of transformation.

Her show “Exquisite to Sublime” opens at the Orillia Museum of Art & History on July 20 and runs through until Sept. 22. It will be a retrospective of her career to date.

“Growing up, my grandmother instilled in me the value of working with my hands, a creativity that may have never manifested itself if not for her," said Madden.

"She was a hand embroiderer and to watch her fingers move the needle effortlessly through the fabric, as if through water, silent and smooth, was simply beautiful." 

Madden's grandfather was a big film buff. 

"He took me to see Mary Poppins when I was five years old. The memory of that scene in the park with Bert, the four of them jumping into that painting, has stayed with me," she said.

"Those two pivotal moments have stayed with me," said Madden. "It’s taken me years to see how those early exposures to art in two very different forms, planted a seed in me creatively.”

Inspired by the work of Faith Ringgold Melody, then in her early 30’s, bought her first sewing machine and taught herself to quilt as a way of expression and creativity while her two young daughters were at school. Thus, she embarked on her first medium: fibre.

From there she found herself wanting to fine tune her work and take it to the next level. She took a mixed media approach and used both paint and thread to move forward with her landscapes.

Fine cotton was painted with acrylics and then, using the needle of her machine, as you would a paintbrush, she used a multitude of threads to draw on the fabric to create her landscapes.  

Years ago, one of her representing galleries casually asked her if she had ever thought of painting on canvas. This struck a chord and opened a new door to her current work in both acrylics and oils.  

“At this point in my life ,my work is inspired by three very distinctive places: Muskoka, where I live; Lake Couchiching and Georgian Bay. Each of these places elicit an emotional response that in turn shapes the work. The lakes, the trees, sunrise, sunset, oh, and I’m so emotional about the sky. To me the sky holds untold stories," said Madden.

"I feel I’m emotional every single time I pick up a paintbrush. It’s like this flow of everything I’ve experienced in my life to this point, pouring out onto the canvas," she explained.

"I believe there are pivotal moments in your life that change you, shape you, push you to strip away the layers to discover who you are and what you are really made of … my work is an exploration of that," said Madden. "At times it may translate to a calm, still sky or sometimes something much darker, stormy and powerful. There is incredible beauty in both.”

Melody Lynn Madden is represented by Butter Art Gallery in Collingwood, Paula White Diamond Gallery in Kitchener-Waterloo, and Ryan Fine Art in Port Carling, Ontario. You can see more of her work and read about her process on Instagram.

There is an opportunity to meet Melody Lynn Madden at OMAH during the Summer Block Party on Saturday, July 27 from 1 to 3 p.m.