“I am always looking for objects to be my muse,” says Melanie Chartier. “Now that I live on Cape Cod, I use local objects found in the natural surroundings, which anchors me and my work here.” Clam shells, stones, driftwood, and crab claws are some of the items that make their way into the artist’s still-life paintings.
A representational oil painter, Chartier grew up in New Bedford, where she took dance, drama, and painting lessons. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, she moved to Chicago and earned a master’s in fine arts from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. She then stepped away from art for a time to focus on her family.
When her husband’s career brought the family to Cape Cod in 2001, Chartier decided to “buckle down and get back to serious painting.” She found a private studio in The Old Schoolhouse Art Studios in Barnstable Village, where a group of artists share space and camaraderie. “There is a benefit to having like-minded people in the building to give each other advice and support,” she says. “It’s a great vibe.”
Chartier says she likes to work with a series of paintings of the same theme “to fully flush out the meaning of those works, until you have nothing left to say.” She uses both traditional methods and her own hybrid techniques, developed over years of experimentation. “Drawing is the foundation for my paintings,” she says. “Once that foundation is set, I am free to paint.”
Instead of making a statement, many of Chartier’s works focus on raising questions. For example, “Message in a Bottle,” one of her earlier works, is a grouping of shells and driftwood around a glass bottle with a rolled message inside; the viewer is left to wonder what mystery it conceals. Chartier is currently working on a series of paintings of rock piles or cairns, which she considers a prayer or meditation series. “There is a whole mysterious possibility that links a person in the here and now to others in the past,” she says. “People have been collecting and piling rocks for thousands of years. Why do humans do this? I leave this to the viewer. One can connect symbolism to the works, or they can just see a cool pile of rocks.” – Kathy Blackwell
A member of the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod, Melanie Chartier is represented by Chatham Fine Art, at 492 Main Street in Chatham. For more information about her work and classes, visit melaniechartier.com, or look for Melanie Chartier Studio on Facebook.