The need to discover has always driven people to traverse the world in search of something new. Mixed media abstract painter Melanie Ferguson has experienced this drive throughout her life, but she has found in her many travels that discovery can happen anywhere, across the world or in her own home. Her unique, textured paintings transports viewers into these everyday journeys.
Ferguson was born in Salt Lake City, Utah and lived in that area for most of her childhood and adolescence. She grew up surrounded by both immediate and extended family members. Her grandfather owned a farm and a small cabin in American Fork Canyon, and Ferguson has fond memories of spending time there during her childhood.
“I truly believe that is where I fell in love with being outdoors,” she says. “I lived in the outdoors as a kid. If we weren’t playing kick the can, we were building forts, putting on plays, riding our bikes outside. As I got older, we would water ski, snow ski, snowmobile, cross-country ski, and hike in the beautiful red rocks of Southern Utah.” Her life was grounded in nature and the simple pleasures of childhood imagination. She watched television only on Saturday mornings and spent the rest of the week entertaining herself, usually outside.
When Ferguson was 19 years old, her nearly 80-year-old grandmother decided she wanted to learn how to paint landscapes and began taking classes. Her grandmother’s interest in art sparked her own, and Ferguson began taking a photography class at the University of Utah. She fell in love with the art form and continued to explore others, taking a drawing class. “I did a pen and ink drawing of an owl on a weathered piece of driftwood, which I gave to my dad,” she recalls. “I was pretty proud of that bird drawing and had to keep going.”
After two years of studies, Ferguson moved to California, where she married her first husband. Unable to afford classes, she put her art studies on hold, reasoning that art was more of a hobby than a career path. She then attended college in Long Beach, majoring in Liberal Studies with the intent to be a teacher. Due to complications during her first pregnancy, she eventually put college on hold, planning to continue her education when she had time.
Not long after starting their family, Ferguson and her husband moved to Connecticut, where she resumed art classes. After a couple years, the family returned to California. This time, Ferguson continued with her art, realizing that it “wasn’t a passing fling”. She spent every spare minute she could creating.
Eventually, Ferguson went through a divorce and moved to Manhattan Beach, where she met and married her second husband, Greg. After their marriage, the couple moved back to the Park City, Utah area to be close to her parents and siblings.
As her two daughters were growing up, Ferguson worked in occasional art classes around their schedules and studied extensively on her own. When they left for college, she took her studies further, attending workshops with established artists and traveling around the world to paint a diverse range of beautiful landscapes. Her passion for travel and nature turned out to be perfect complements to her artistic inclination. “Painting gives me another window into the world,” she explains, “and I get to experience these places on a deeper level.”
As she studied and experimented with art, Ferguson developed a unique, abstracted style using a variety of materials underneath layers of acrylic paint. “I find a vintage piece of metal, with all its beautiful colors, and voila…it inspires a painting,” she says. “I love to find old papers, lace, ephemera of the past at Flea markets, and it starts the creative process flowing.”
The love of nature Ferguson developed as a child permeates her work through the abstraction. Though her paintings are no longer traditional landscapes, they are heavily inspired by the “beauty, textures, color” of the natural world.
Along with the artists she has studied with, who include Kevin Macpherson, Jill Carver, and Scott Christensen, Ferguson finds inspiration in the work of many masters of the past, including impressionists Monet and Cezanne, abstract artists De Kooning and Klimpt, and landscape painters Edgar Payne and Maynard Dixon.
Ferguson belongs to the California Art Club, Oil Painters of America, Park City Professional Artists, and Sierra Club. Her work has been featured in Deer Valley’s "Best Artist to Watch” and Westside Magazine, and she has participated in a number of exhibitions, including the Utah Women Artist Exhibition, "Celebrating the Universality of Women", in 2016 and the Brentwood Travel Abroad Art Show in 2011. Viewers have praised the beautiful color and texture of Fergusons work and called it “lyrical”.
When she is not painting, Ferguson loves to read everything she can get her hands on and spend time out in nature. She keeps a beautiful garden on her six acre ranch in Oakley, Utah and travels whenever she can.
Ferguson believes that it is her mission as an artist “to take my viewer on a journey and show them something they have never seen before. I want them to experience, taste & smell the scene before them, or feel the texture, see the beauty in everyday objects.” She loves sharing her work and bringing peace, joy, and hope into people’s homes.