Melissa Furness’ work has been most influenced by her experiences of travel, which have included artist’s residencies around the world, such as those with Jentel in Wyoming, Yaddo in New York, the Laznia Center of Contemporary Art in Poland, Shankill Castle in Ireland, Red Gate Gallery in Beijing, the Hungarian Multicultural Center outside of Budapest; and Kala Art Institute in Berkeley. Furness has participated in numerous international exhibitions, and was invited to exhibit work at the 2016 Kochi-Muziris Biennial in Kerala, India through A.I.R. Gallery of New York. The artist was awarded a competitive fellowship to participate in the 2015 Biennial of the Americans, through which she resided in Mexico City as an Art Ambassador and exhibited a major project produced based on these experiences. She is an active member of the Artnauts Collective, through which she exhibits small works in places of contention throughout the world, including the DMZ Museum in South Korea and other locations in order to draw attention to significant political, social and historical issues. She has also been a member of A.I.R. Gallery in Brooklyn as well as Pink Progression through which she has exhibited major works that have addressed feminist and gender issues.
Through her various residency experiences, the artist has exhibited major works in Berkeley, California at the Vizivarosi and Keki Galleries and The Drawing Room HU in Budapest, Hungary and developed site specific projects in Mexico, Ireland, Italy and China. Furness’ work has been represented in the past by galleries in New York, Seattle, Palm Springs and Zurich leading up to her current representation with K Contemporary Art in Denver. Her work has been featured in numerous group and solo exhibitions as well and international art fairs in Seoul , Zurich, Cologne, Los Angeles, and Aspen. She has been featured in New American Paintings, Studio Visit Magazine, SeeAllThis Magazine, Klassik Magazine International, 303 Magazine and others. Furness received her MFA in Painting and Drawing from the University of Iowa and is currently a Professor of Art Practices at the University of Colorado Denver.
I am an artist that treats painting as a conceptual object. Each series of work that I have produced is related through an exploration of the distortions of history through expressed narratives, nature and site as ruin. The work calls into question selections of what it is it that is upheld or kept and cherished versus what is discarded or thrown out and unwanted. These elements tell a story, from what a larger public or political body chooses to show to the world versus the reality of the local and personal life of a people or individual.
Overgrowth and refuse are major themes, as I am fascinated by the way in which nature reclaims what humans build over time as well as what one discards as trash and the narrative these suggest of the life of a people, creating a confusion of reality and cultural significance. There are things that grow and thrive against one’s will–an internal and external “rooting out,” with an eventual return that becomes a cycle of time. I am both a painter of the eroding objects and nature that I observe as well as an artist that pushes the boundaries of the preciousness of such an art object by placing it into the landscape or presenting it in ways that defy the history of an artifact.
Decorative, dense tangles of weeds and overgrowth serve as metaphors for personal habits and behaviors we’d like to eliminate. Like garden weeds, these behaviors can be invasive, and even if pulled out, often return. This cycle is represented by the works’ all-over, paVerned surfaces or environments which make it difficult to tease out which botanicals (or habits) are friend or foe. Grotesque fairy-like figures play out across the dense thickets to suggest narratives questioning personal moments and how we define identity, gender, animalistic behavior, sexuality and fantasy.