Today we’d like to introduce you to Melanie Atesalp.
Hi Melanie, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself
I am a part indigenous former foster youth, with a wide array of experiences that contribute to the way I relate to art making and the world around me. Highly adaptable and versatile based on my surroundings, and a conversation with the environment, both physical and spiritual. My mediums range from dirt, tea-soaked papers, and earth, to large 250-foot murals, laden in metaphor, experience, travel, humor, fantasy and nature/ adventure themes. I describe the creative process as fluid, experiential, and malleable, sometimes inspiration is a trickle, and sometimes a waterfall, but always stays in motion. Art is a vehicle for connecting to the heart and spirit of our humanity”. I have the firm belief that we connect to our creator through the act of creating.
My upbringing was heavy and tumultuous, often with feelings of alienation from other children due to the emotional pain of being regularly uprooted in my living situation, addicted to heavy drugs/pharmaceuticals, confusion about my identity, abused, tormented with anxiety about where I would sleep, and who I could go to for help. These were decisions adults should make, and I had to craft my own tools to adapt to adversity and foster resilience. My test scores were high, but my grades were low due to a lack of structure, and foundations rooted in trauma, but this allowed me the freedom of exploration and learning from experience.
I established coping mechanisms that would allow me to feel a mixture of catharsis, introspection, healing, and escapism. Drawing my imaginative Daydreams and fantasies were the silver lining to the drudge of day to day systemic obstacles. I wanted to make magic out of the mundane with animated characters. I would illustrate small stories and share them with the children in my group homes, seeing their joyous reactions to my art made me want to dedicate my life to my craft and make the world a little more beautiful than I found it.
A caseworker snuck me a gift set of paintbrushes when she saw I made the other children happy, and I still use the case in my muraling kit today. I was a troubled youth, but never would allow my circumstances to be a permanent reality. I made the decision to actively become a person I am proud of and create the world I want to live in. My art process and fascinations evolve as I do, with the hope that it inspires others to be the best version of themselves, and stand proud in their own personal truth.
I went to trade school straight out of high school, and saved my money to travel the world and pay for college. I did a lot of backpacking and soul searching through Europe, Iceland, Australia, Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, Croatia, Adopting the first part of my middle name “Sojourner” as my artist identity. I became grounded in self and carried a yoga/creative practice with me, learning about diverse art expressions from around the world to build my own eclectic style. Regular practice is my constant in the sea of change. I graduated last year from San Diego State University, and designed the large scale 250 foot healing gardens mural on campus, paying homage to Aztec and Kumeyaay artisans. The project helped me feel more connected to my Jalisco indegenous roots.
My parents are wonderful artists that I currently share a healthy relationship with, but our early path before healing was layered, and partially a product of the broken world and systems that build divisive obstacles instead of opportunities for connection and growth. ‘’Each of us has an idea of how the world should be while still having to function within the way that it is.’’
The way the world is…disconnected with nature and community, divisive political movements, corrupt seemingly monolithic/rigid corporate structures invading our private and public spaces, wealth gaps, racism, domestic abuse, our healthcare and educational institutions being run like an industry instead of a resource, the list goes on.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
I have faith in the evolution of humanity and see at the end of the day we all are the same in our basic needs for love, connection, education, sense of purpose. Together we are strong.
I’ve always wanted to make work that brings people from all walks of life together in the spirit of fun. Unify through mindfulness, which is why I am organizing the Wild Mandala project, a visual mural campaign and a series of site specific nature mandalas that are based off of local flora, fauna, and animals of each location. I am currently raising funds for the mural tour through print/art sales, commissions, and donations. Each mandala will have information attached to educate about the different elements of design and connect people with their local ecological organizations/ nonprofits to donate or participate in a caring social network. Spectators will also give spectators the option to purchase eco-friendly merchandise with the design on it that goes to supporting local natural habitats. The purpose of this project is to beautify inner cities while providing information and community around caring for local ecological systems.
I always appreciated my parent’s deep reverence for the natural world and it’s strong yet fragile balancing act it must do to ensure life, I can still hear my mother’s voice “Take care of our mother earth, and she will take care of you.”
Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
My biggest struggle was switching from a survive to thrive mentality. Managing a healthy sense of worthiness and self-talk are mental elements that are an essential element for being an artist who shares their vulnerabilities with the world. I had some monetary setbacks, but have been able to power through some of them with sheer will power and an organized action plan.
Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I currently sell prints/tapestries of my surrealist/fantasy nature works to help fund upcoming graphic novels, children’s books, and an eco-awareness campaign mural tour.
A percentage of my earnings goes to local non-profits, ecological organizations, and foster youth programs.
If we knew you growing up, how would we have described you?
I was a very quiet, inquisitive, and perceptive child, always described as an “old soul” with a quirky sense of humor. I kept company with adults, and had a deep fascination with surrealism from an early age. My mother is a poet and would read novels to me before bed, and my father is a composer who would fill the house with his technical instrumental tinkerings. I didn’t speak much until I entered the 5th grade, when I learned to be a social butterfly with children in my age group. High school was a party period where I learned self-reliance, compartmentalism, and enjoyed diverse/eclectic social groups. A favorite early memory of mine was catching pollywogs with my sister in a creek by the family ranch, and drawing them as they developed out of their tails and metamorphosed into their arms.
- Art prints- $35-60
- Framed prints- $45-$165
- Tapestries- $50-$100
- Postcards/sets- $3-$10
- Stickers/packs- $3-$10
- Email: Sojournartgallery@gmail.com
- Website: Sojournartist.com
- Instagram: @Sojourn.Artist
- Facebook: Pending
- Other: SanDiegoPsychedelicSociety.com