Melissa Fleming - Artist Exploring the Natural World



Nature has always inspired my work.  Long intrigued by its processes, most of my art is an investigation of the transient and often unseen aspects of the natural world. An interdisciplinary education, including history, art, and science has influenced my way of seeing.  It has taught me to look for interconnections between and across various fields of study. As a result, the influences on my work are diverse, incorporating ideas from the Sublime, Romanticism, Abstraction, and modern environmental science.


Individual Projects


The ocean is simultaneously dangerous and beautiful. I was attracted to this duality and began to photograph the waves at night, a time when the ocean feels the most unknown and un-navigable. Although the ocean is physically the same at night as it is in the day, our perception of it changes in the dark. Unable to see the water at night, we feel uncertain about our surroundings. Even photography, a medium of light, captured only the white crash of waves, the lone visible sign of the water in the darkness. The white seemed sentient and in a sense was the mark by which we could know the ocean at night. Waves visualize the power of the ocean and in the black void of the night the swirls of white in Sentient hint at that unseen energy we know in our minds to be present.


Sea Change

Wave after wave, the mark of the ocean is ever-present and continuously changing. The variations in the images of Sea Change, a series of palladium-based photograms, reference this complex character. Never on its own, water contains and transports materials of various sizes and opacity, including sand, seaweed, and sticks. Working with an element of chance, these images capture the pattern of the movement of these materials in the break of a wave. Exposing in the UV light of the Sun, this process entwines the material aspect of photography with the ocean and shows the trace of water. As a result, each piece becomes a unique document of the movement of matter within an individual ocean wave.  


Under Glass

Under Glass is a series of sculptural assemblages that highlight the many layers of complexity and almost continuous state of change present in the natural world. Attracted to these transient processes, our perceptions of them, and the ideas of 19th-century citizen science, I collected natural objects and placed them under Victorian-style glass domes. Under glass, the objects are singled out for close examination and highlight the act of intense seeing which is common to the practice of both art and science.  Each seemingly simple object coupled with an engraved label on its glass dome seeks to explore the duality of perception and reality.   


American Glaciers ... Going, Going, Gone

Melting glaciers are one of the most visible manifestations of climate change.  Essentially massive rivers of ice, they are particularly sensitive to rising temperatures and changing precipitation patterns. For centuries, glaciers around the world have advanced and retreated in response to localized conditions. Today, however, our average global temperature is increasing and the vast majority are in retreat. Focused on the US, the images in this ongoing series document glaciers in the eight states where they still remain and highlight how the American landscape is changing.



Wildfires are a natural part of the ecosystem in the American West, but changing weather patterns linked to climate change are fanning their flames. Extended periods of hot and dry conditions set the stage by desiccating the landscape. The parched plants then become tinder for any type of spark.  The fire season in the region traditionally ranged from late summer into early fall. It now lasts an average of 80 days longer than it did in the 1970s. 



Where are you going?  This question can be interpreted on numerous levels, from the literal to the philosophical.  I was interested in the sense of change that the question implies and began to create sculptures that explore the feeling of transition. Both physically and conceptually, these ladders, slides, graphs, and compasses invite us to consider our positions and choices. 


The Space In Between

Looking at interconnections, the shelf-based installations of The Space in Between explore the idea of a system. Working with three-dimensional objects, two-dimensional photographs, and shadows, they each seek to create an integrated whole with a sense of visual flow.  

Wax Flora

Wax Flora is a series of photographs that capture the color and form of botanical specimens fixed in wax. It was inspired by the fusion of art and science behind historical botanical drawings as well as the more modern idea of abstraction created by close-up photography.