We had the good fortune of connecting with Melody Croft and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Melody, do you listen to any podcasts? Any recommendations?
When I work in my studio, I listen to audiobooks, music, or podcasts. I open my podcast app two or three times a week and listen for hours. I enjoy several shows but since I don’t listen daily, I am usually behind in episodes. There is one particular podcast however, that I listen to religiously on the day that it drops: “Nobody Listens to Paula Poundstone.” On Tuesday, I smile at the realization that it’s Tuesday, and Paula and her crew will be funny, intelligent, and nice to each other. Remember the tv show, Seinfeld? It was toted as a show about nothing. “Nobody Listens to Paula Poundstone” is a podcast about nothing. In this crazy time where serious “somethings” are constantly occurring, laughing about “nothing” is a definite necessity.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Please tell us more about your art. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, I paint people in oil and watercolor and look inside of what appears to be seen. The common thread in my work is humanity and unlike the lens of a camera that objectively documents a moment in time and space, my lens subjectively observes and comments. My portraits and narrative paintings converge the real and imagined to examine the status quo and social norms of modern life. I invite viewers to look and consider the psychological, sociological, or emotional complexities of race, gender, age, and culture. I often weave poetry into a portrait. The text provides an introduction to the portrait, allowing the viewer to connect emotionally and intellectually. I use lettering from magazines and newspapers for the text, much like the ransom notes written by the kidnappers on the TV detective shows I watched as a kid. I am drawn to the various colors, sizes, and fonts of the cutout letters and how they enhance the visual impact of the overall painting. I attribute my artistic style to the hundreds of young children I knew in my 30 years as a teacher. The daily interactions with children and most importantly, the moment-by-moment immersion into their concrete thinking rests on my canvases via simple lines, shapes, values, and textures in vivid colors set into a story. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Since 1993, I have read, observed, enrolled in a few classes, and painted whenever time permitted. In 2001, someone suggested that I try my hand at oil painting, so I did, and I’ve been painting in oils pretty much exclusively ever since. In 2009, I retired from teaching and became a full-time artist. It’s strange being “fifty-something” and starting again when society views people my age as “long in tooth” and “past one’s prime.” Placing the watercolor brush into the well of paint in 1993 however, was the birth of me as an artist. So I consider my artist self to be a mere “twenty-something,” which I say tongue-in-cheek; however, upon reflection, my growth as an artist does resemble that of growing from a child into an adult. For the first eleven years of my “artist self,” I painted what interested me, mostly still lifes and portraits, but in 2004, a visit to an exhibit at The Georgia Museum of Art entitled “Coming Home: American Paintings from 1930-1950” motivated and focused my artistic style and voice. On the walls of the museum hung beautiful rich oils that spoke to the social and cultural issues of that era by portraying the daily lives of ordinary people. These narrative representational paintings, especially the work of the Social Realist, Ben Shahn, captivated me and impacted my artistic sensibility. I had no epiphany that evening but rather a realization that I wanted my work to move beyond depictions of objects and people and toward narrative work that connected with human emotions. What are you most proud of or excited about My current work focuses on America’s racial climate and the #Black Lives Matter movement. As a whole, these oil, watercolor, and acrylic paintings create an empathic narrative sparked from my many years forming emotional connections with young African American children. Each painting has led me to the next painting and has become a project entitled TOO: An Orientation of Spirit. This solo exhibition incorporates Russian writer Leo Tolstoy’s belief that art is a form of consciousness: a vehicle of communication and empathy. That the action of art is based on the fact that a person, receiving through the sense of sight an artist’s expression of feeling, is capable of experiencing the emotion that moved the artist who expressed it. The heart of the narrative is the word TOO: the absent but implied word at the end of the statement, BLACK LIVES MATTER. This small word’s message of inclusion provides the artistic lens to ignite a viewer’s imagination and consider the African American experience.

Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
Athens has the food, culture, and entertainment of Atlanta without the traffic! Downtown Athens is a must and to experience it, plan to spend several days and evenings exploring. Eat lunch at The Place and then amble across the street to UGA’s North Campus and walk the beautiful grounds of the first state-chartered public university in the United States. After your tour, circle back to downtown Broad Street and enjoy a coffee or tea at Jittery Joes. Once you’ve snacked and rested, take a couple of hours to walk the downtown streets and take note of the bars, stores, and restaurants that you will want to visit during the rest of your visit. Evening fun can be had at Hendershot’s and The Georgia Theater. Both venues provide outdoor seating and great live music. If you are looking for culture, The Georgia Museum of Art is the place to find it for FREE. The Lamar Dodd School of Art is located next door and has several excellent art galleries also. There are beautiful parks with nature trails to enjoy and The Botanical Gardens of Georgia offers manicured gardens.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
When I was in my early thirties, I read a number of self-help books, one of which recommended watercolor painting as good therapy for self-esteem. I thought since I could draw, maybe I should try it: what could I lose? So I bought a watercolor book and the necessary supplies and began teaching myself the medium; I kept at it, improving slowly. Gloria Steinham, the author of that one particular self-help book, A Revolution From Within, would be proud to know that learning to watercolor did help me: in fact I found myself. I would have loved to drop everything and enroll in an art school, but I had to continue my career as an elementary school teacher since my family seemed to enjoy the necessities of life. Gloria Steinham’s book provided the inspiration to create but it is my husband, Bob, who supports and sustains my artwork. Bob supports me when I’m disheartened by yet another rejection letter. He reminds me that I paint for myself and the process: not for recognition or sales.

Website: melodycroft.com
Instagram: croftmelody
Youtube: Melody Croft

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