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Artist Interview #1: Fiber Artist and Sculptor Melissa Vertosick

· artist interview,fiber,sculpture
Melissa Vertosick lives and works in southwestern PA. Her mixed media sculptures, installations, and books form a loose narrative of experiences, thoughts, memories, and societal influences. Currently, Melissa is focusing on small incremental changes observed in the cycles within her garden as she reinterprets Victorian ornamentation and designs to create an imagined environment of organic forms.
She earned her BFA in sculpture from West Virginia University and her MFA in sculpture from Pennsylvania State University. She has exhibited work in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, and Maryland. 
On a chilly but sunny day in January, just after the first big snowstorm of the season, Melissa welcomed us into her studio space in Greensburg, where she shares space with her dad's contracting company. The spaces carved out for her work were among the cleanest we've ever seen.
We're excited to share our first interview in this ongoing series featuring local artists of all media.
Where can we find you online?
My website's www.melissavertosick.com, so it's very easy to find!
Where are you from?
Well, I currently live in Delmont, but I did grow up in Greensburg, which is why it made sense for me to have my studio back here again.
Why do you choose to make art in Pittsburgh?
Wow, uh, some of it was just 'cause that's where I ended up coming back to, you know.  I left for awhile for school and was kinda done with school and looking for jobs, and actually, my mom's health wasn't that great at one point, so it made sense to move back and sorta help with that and... she's doing fine and stable and everything now, but it just made sense to come back to the area, you know, and be closer to the family to help out.
What is your favorite part of being an artist in Pittsburgh?
A lot of it is the community itself of artists, it seems like it's very close-knit and easy to make friends, with lots of opportunities that allow outlets for our artwork in ways that I didn't necessarily see that in places I had lived.  You see parts of that happening, plus in some ways after you're done with school it's so easy to just hole up in your studio and not interact with anybody.  But here, there's a social aspect to it.
What would you love to see more of in the Pittsburgh art scene?
I think that what I'd like to see more of is already happening, so that's really exciting.  I feel that some of the larger institutions are starting to focus more on the local artists that they weren't doing ten years ago when I came back to the area.  In the fiber arts guilds, they're doing mentorships where anyone who is interested in a certain medium can get together and critique and learn from each other in a setting that's informal.  They also offer critiques, which is an idea I like because, again, when you're out of the school setting, it's nice to get feedback from people.  When you apply for a show, you either get in or not, you don't really get a critique.
What is your favorite music to jam to in the studio?
Well, actually, most of the time I work in silence. I just find it's easier to get kind of lost in my stuff when it's silent.  There are times when it's quiet in here, I will even put on my earmuffs to make it even quieter.  I just find sometimes it's just easier because my mind is able to kind of just go where it needs to go.  I find that sometimes too much gets in the way during day-to-day life.  Most of the time it's silent, but occasionally I will put on either The X or WYEP... one end of the extreme or the other.
What other things do you do when you are not making art?  That is if you have any free time?
A lot of my time is spent building my other businesses that I have going on.  I also enjoy spending time in the garden, which kind of makes sense because a lot of my work in recent years is inspired by gardens and organic shapes, so I do spend a lot of time there.  Reading, and crafty stuff at home that I wouldn't necessarily show out in public, but keeps me feeling inspired and creative.
What would you tell other artists who are just starting out?
I guess some of that would be to just find that community outside of schooling, like we have in Pittsburgh, and cultivate that because it's another way to get inspiration and have that accountability.  It can definitely be a difficult thing while you are working AND making your art at the same time.  It can definitely be a big shift, especially if you are used to being in art school and schooling is your main focus, it can be difficult to make that transition.  Having that community support is really good.  Another thing I notice in Pittsburgh right now is that there are a lot of artist spaces popping up, and that's great to find because then you are in that energy and environment where a lot of other artists are around to help.  One important thing I learned in art school, pretty early on, is that just because someone critiques and turns you down doesn't mean that it's not good work.  It just doesn't fit with whatever their vision was.  Just because you didn't get into a show doesn't mean your work isn't good enough, it just means that they wanted to go in a different direction.
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