We recently sat down with Melissa Vogley Woods, a multimedia artist based in Columbus, whose work appears in our new exhibition, 2 + 3 x 18: Diptychs and Triptychs by 18 Contemporary Ohio Artists, to learn about her philosophy, life and art.
How did you become an artist? Tell me about your journey.
My mom was an artist, and still is—a portrait artist. I grew up seeing her work. From a very young age, I wanted to be an artist. I went to art school in Kansas City and was at Fort Hayes in the 80s, in their art program. After college, I spent a few years working freelance. I had two stores in the Short North when I was 25 and ran a mural business for 15 years. After that, in my 40s, I decided to go to grad school for printmaking. I have always been very multi-disciplined! I spent the last nine years teaching at different universities in the area, like CCAD, OSU, Denison and Kenyon, and I decided to take this year off. I had planned it ahead of the pandemic. I chose well and got lucky with that!
How has the pandemic impacted your work?
I am in a bunch of shows right now! Somehow everything came to a head. Everything got moved back because of Covid, and (the shows) got stacked up on each other. At the beginning of social distancing, I did a piece, now called Always CMA, that the Columbus Museum of Art purchased and had installed. The piece itself is about looking back into history. In a hundred years if something like this (pandemic) happened again, they could recreate it.
How did you get involved with the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio?
I had a relationship with curator Dr. Christine Fowler Shearer before her diptychs and triptychs show at the Riffe Center, and I had these pieces that really went along with her theme. That’s how it came to be. She wanted to travel the exhibition and I was all in.
I have always wanted to have art at the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio. My work has often dealt with houses, so it seems full circle. I created Rooms to Let Temporary Art Space and hold exhibitions and bring artists together in a house. The last project was in my house. I have always had this relationship with the house structure, and it’s so cool that the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio is in a house. I am excited to keep this thread running through my work. It’s also a nod to my work with exterior and interior themes.
You have a talk coming up at DACO about “the lost art” of scagliola. What is scagliola and what is your relationship with it?
You’re saying it wrong; it’s actually pronounced “sky-ola.” That’s how they say it in Italy. When I was there, they told me I wasn’t saying it right either! I thought I was saying it exactly how they were, but I guess not!
It is a traditional process used in Italy and in Germany, that region. In northern Italy is where it was created. It stems back to the 1700s. Nobody knows where it was invented, but it’s a process to make a faux marble look and it has developed on its own into a very complex art form involving inlay and image making. It has many different realms it can go into.
In my work, I always like to showcase some kind of historical making process. But I like to manipulate it so it speaks the way I want to speak. I like to create a cloud of information to search around within to grasp at some familiarity with the image or form. It’s like looking back at history; we interpret it the way we can. Everything is muddled by what is recorded. I like to do that in my work by muddling it up so you can kind of get a glimpse of what it is.
With scagliola, I like its tradition; I like that it looks like stratification of rock. It looks like it goes back in time. There are layers of information and I like the fact that I can manipulate it and speak to its historic roots. It’s really fun; I love it.
What do you want people to think about when they view your work?
The three inlays are pulled from the exact same image. So if people want to try to look and see if they can find the forms on each image, they are the same, just manipulated, on each of them. Also think about black and white versus color. It’s something I use in my work.
It’s kind of a bodily experience you have when you look at the work. Think about how you look at it, and why we look at ruins. There’s a sadness or nostalgia to a ruin that I think is interesting. Think about what is in ruin now, and how we can currently fix it. There’s always a way to correct things later.
See Melissa Vogley Woods' work in our current exhibition, 2 + 3 x 18: Diptychs and Triptychs by 18 Contemporary Ohio Artists. Register for her artist talk, The Almost Lost Art of Scagliola, held at 2 p.m. on Sept. 20.
Support for the exhibition has been provided by the George and Dollie L. Zimpfer Memorial Fund of the Fairfield County Foundation, The Fox Foundation, Ohio Humanities, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Federal CARES Act of 2020.