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Art Scene – Melanie Nolker

Aspens on High

With a degree in psychology from Avila University, and many years teaching at the Multiply Handicapped Preschool at The University of Kansas Medical Center, and later as an administrator at St. Michael’s Day School helping mainstream children with special needs, Melanie Nolker seemed to have a comfortable niche in life. Although, she said, “I come from a long line of artists. My grandfather [George Melville Ston] studied at the Académie Julian in Paris in the late 1800s and had paintings exhibited in the prestigious Salon Exhibition. I grew up with his paintings on my walls and feel his presence and encouragement in my art life.”

Enter Melanie’s husband, who thought a book (for a Christmas present) about watercolors (Watercolor for the Artistically Undiscovered) with some conveniently attached paints might be just the midlife distraction she needed. The only problem was, Melanie wasn’t having any of it. After a few months and some coaxing, her reluctance turned into fascination. Melanie was hooked on colors. “Since that time, I have lived and looked at life differently. The colors are brighter, the contrasts deeper, and my joy is greater.” (We don’t know for sure if her husband ever had a “told you so” moment or not.) A pivot had occurred, and paints and colors now played a major role in Melanie’s purpose. 

Sycamore By The Sea

It’s never too late to use a knife! After some dabbling in the watercolor world, in 2004, Melanie began experimenting with palette knives and oil paints producing the effect that she now calls, “…expressionistic in my use of color and impressionistic in style.” Melanie said, “I love the lack of control that this way of painting forces on me, and the texture that arises gives a deeper dimension to my work than brush work.” Her inspiration is self-described as, “The colors are exaggerated and although you know what you are looking at, my renditions are not literal. I am inspired by nature, by travel, and by the energy of the many artists that I paint with.” She considers herself to be Monet-esque. A stroll through Melanie’s works will confirm her essence – she is all color, all of the time. Her works are rich, layered, inviting, sometimes radiant, sometimes subdued, sometimes ethereal, but always lusciously full of color. 

One of Melanie’s mentors was Milisa Valliere, an artist who has synesthesia – she interprets sounds through color. In other words, she experiences her senses through each other. Milisa translates the emotions of music through colors, and her works, “…involve the spontaneous combination of vivid texture and color.” She clearly had an impact on how Melanie came to interpret colors. When asked how she knows when a painting is finished, she replied, “When every color next to another color makes me happy, I know that I am done.”

One of her favorite pieces is a nod to her life of travel – In My Dreams, which recounts a journey to Lake Como in Italy. Normally, she would rely on photographs to begin her work, but this piece came straight from her memory and how it made her feel. Besides traveling to Italy, Melanie and her husband love Canada, and they have vowed to visit all 50 states. Only one state shy of their goal, Hawaii is on the calendar for next May!

Being a working artist means keeping a studio, which Melanie has as a resident artist at InterUrban ArtHouse in Downtown Overland Park. She hosts painting instruction for either individuals or groups who want to have a new artistic experience; and those classes are held at InterUrban, as well as other locations around the city. Also represented by Eva Reynolds Gallery, Melanie keeps her business active by accepting commissions. From pets to landscapes to lighthouses, Melanie is happy to help clients conceive a dream and make it an artistic reality. Let’s also be clear about the fact that she is a role model for anyone who finds themselves looking for a life change, or who just happens to be “artistically undiscovered!”

Read more from the November 27, 2021 issue of The Independent
By Anne Potter Russ

Anne Potter Russ

Anne is thrilled to be working with The Independent again, and even happier to be with some great people. Having served as editor from 2005 to 2009, it is a pleasure to be able to connect with the readers of this timeless magazine. Anne and her husband, Norbert, live in south Leawood, and have two grown kids, Diana and Nick, as well as two rambunctious dogs.

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