Melinda Rosenberg. Photo by Chris Casella
It doesn’t take much to inspire Worthington-area wood artist Melinda Rosenberg.
Driftwood along the Cape Cod shores, cactus hulls and mesquite in Palm Springs, mulberry branches from North Carolina, a chunk of birch from Michigan, weathered wooden shutters, and furniture parts: All of it can evolve into beautiful works of art.
“I am drawn to wood grain, the texture and pattern,” Rosenberg says. “For me, it’s a metaphor that embodies the idea of growth, the life source, a life cycle. I look at wood grain as a kind of marker with each ring of the tree’s growth.”
An artist’s eye existed within her from an early age.
“I remember when I was about 5 years old, I saw an ellipse in a bowl of fruit on our kitchen table, and then drew what I saw,” Rosenberg says. “I was seeing things I knew others my age didn’t.”
Art runs in the family. She describes her mother as “a wonderful watercolorist” and says her daughter is an artist, too, currently studying ceramics at the University of North Carolina at Asheville.
Rosenberg began working with wood during graduate school at The Ohio State University. She defines herself as a woodworker/painter, and her style as “a bridge between fine art and craft, two- and three-dimensional, conceptual and spiritual, yet playful and contemplative.” Not only does she collect and store pieces of wood in her studio, she dons goggles and safety gear, and does her own cutting, shaping, sanding, staining and painting of the wood pieces that become colorful sculptures.
Board Series 21 (left) and Board Series 22 (right)
A major influence for Rosenberg was artist Ree Morton, who was drawn to natural elements – and this captivated Rosenberg.
“She elevated the ordinary from a simple event of collecting driftwood and rocks with her daughter,” Rosenberg says. “Her work was ordinary and also sublime.”
Rosenberg taught art for over 30 years, 25 of them at Thomas Worthington High School. She also taught at OSU and, for several months in the 1980s, in Taiwan. But it wasn’t until she retired from Worthington City Schools that Rosenberg began to pursue her dream of creating wood sculptures.
“I had made art my whole life before that, but I didn’t have the time then to devote to developing my career,” she says. “I am so grateful now to have this time.”
The inspiration for creating a new sculpture comes from Rosenberg’s mind. She admits to having an explosion, even a backlog, of ideas, and wants to get them all out there. Traveling with her husband, Steven, especially to the national parks in the U.S., also inspires her.
“I am a big believer in the mind expanding from the benefits of travel,” Rosenberg says. “I am curious and see the beauty, and this helps me respond through my art.”
One wood she likes is curly ambrosia maple, characterized by distinct lines that are a result of bugs that once nested within the wood. This wood inspired Love Seat, a piece made from the maple and wood of a discarded Christmas tree, then painted and adorned with fabric from the seat of an old chair.
Rosenberg also creates a sculpture series in tribute to a specific look or shape of “found wood,” she says. Her “X Series,” so-named for its X shape, comes from worn shutters and wood of old pieces of furniture. The “Boat Series” consists of long and narrow shaped pieces, indicative of a boat. The “Stick Series” evokes a connection to sensuality and the curvature of the human body, a sense of arms and hands touching.
Rosenberg has received numerous honors and awards, including from the Greater Columbus Arts Council, Ohio Arts Council and Columbus Museum of Art. The most recent honor from GCAC is an International Artist Residency in Dresden, Germany for three months in 2017. Rosenberg is one of two recipients and will travel there next summer.
There are several local permanent installations of her work, including at The James Cancer Hospital, Nationwide Insurance, Huntington National Bank, Columbus Metropolitan Library South Side and Glimcher Realty Trust. Rosenberg’s work is also on display at Sherrie Gallerie in the Short North and the Richard M. Ross Museum at Ohio Wesleyan University. She is also featured at Circa Gallery in Minneapolis and the Haen Gallery in Asheville, N.C.
To learn more about Rosenberg’s work, visit www.melindarosenberg.com.
Kathy L. Woodard is a contributing writer. Feedback welcome at email@example.com.
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- Past Dresden residency recipient Sue Cavanaugh
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