Melonie Ancheta

Melonie Ancheta is a native of the Pacific North West of Irish, Blackfeet, Cherokee and Nez Perce descent. She is not a tribal member, however. For many years she was a professional writer, editor and educator, including teaching English, Ethnotheology and NW Coast Native Art, History and Culture. She has also painted, sculpted and created textile arts all her life.

NW Coast Native art, cosmology and history have always been her compelling passion and about thirteen years ago she began devoting herself exclusively to studying and creating NW Coast Native art.

While she has to her credit a wide range of painted works including a traditional Plains Indian style lodge, a Badarka Qayaq, wall screens, masks, bowls, woven cedar bark hats, bentwood boxes, art glass, copper repousse-work rattles, hand forged copper feast dishes, spindle whorls and objet d’art, she particularly loves painting bentwood cedar boxes and panels, and designing and creating regalia including dance robes, tunics, aprons and leggings, and button blankets. She also paints floor and hand drums and carves small functional objects like hair combs and ornaments. Over the past few years she’s worked on refining her skills as a coppersmith and has made a number of copper repousse-work rattles, bent bowls, bent boxes, spindle whorls and feast dishes. At this time she’s the only formline artist producing formline repousse-work in copper and hand forged copper feast bowls and dishes. Recently she’s been developing a line of wearable art such as painted leather vests, coats, hats and handbags.

For the past twelve years Melonie has researched non-commercial paints, pigments and other colorization agents used by NW Coast Natives, learning the traditional historical pigments and binders used on the NW coast. She has ascertained the origin of a number of sites and methods these pigments were obtained and has studied closely the preparation and use of each. Her research is currently being collated into an article sought by the Burke Museum, the Smithsonian, the Canadian Conservation Institute, and a number of other organizations and agencies for whom this information is relevant. Also included in her research is information on naturally occurring sites of copper available to NW Coast Natives and their use thereof.

Currently her work can be seen in a variety of galleries in Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, Alaska, British Columbia and Europe as well as in number of private collections and public collections in the US, Canada, New Zealand, South East Asia and Europe.

Her work has been exhibited in several solo and group shows, at the Vatican and in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Her original designs have been used on music CD covers, as logos for various organizations, and have promoted a variety of cultural events.

Artists Statement

One of the questions I am most frequently asked is ‘Where did you learn to do this?’ I have no definitive answer. It seems to have grown through each moment of my life to become an organic expression of hearing fog dripping from cedars and the “keeww” of the red-shafted flicker. I taste this art in the intoxicating perfume of Rugosa roses and beached drifts of seaweed baking in the summer sun. I see it in the lapping of waves against the sides of three weather-beaten red fishing skiffs anchored in the reflection of Portage Island. I experienced it standing in icy old warehouses where winter dances were held when I was young, where I stood transfixed as these ancient traditions, elements and designs danced into life when button-robed dancers emerged from behind the screen, robes swirling about them, were danced down those old floors through shadow and light to the beat of huge bentwood box drums pulsing through the floors; that drumbeat that seemed to be the very heartbeat of earth itself, rising through my feet and impelling my own heartbeat.

The other question I hear frequently is ‘What inspires you?’ This question also has no definitive answer. I often find myself finishing a piece of work that has it’s inspiration in nothing more esoteric than the desire to run the perfect curve, the urge in my hand to execute the perfect ovoid; out of that will grow an entire design. Sometimes there’s an identifiable genesis in an impulse to bring a story to visual life, or the desire to characterize a person or event graphically. Then sometimes, in a simple and perfect moment, my eye is opened and my soul laid bare as Nature reveals to me the ancient and elemental formline therein and I’m compelled to attempt capturing it in formline with brush and paint.

I feel as if the work I do is not really of me, but rather through me; I am merely the hand that brings it forward. I believe I have been invited to do this and it is not for me to decline such a profound request for, from whomever the request comes also comes the means by which I am able to keep learning and practicing this artform. It is my belief that because I have been invited, I have an obligation to this place and people to strive for the highest standard of excellence in what is asked of me.

I would like to be the anonymous hand which has done this work;  when it leaves my care I believe the work should stand on its own, have a life independent of me, to live, grow, change and die as natural things just as the old poles, long houses, canoes and thousands of other objects from the past have done.

Melonie Ancheta

yonv nvwoti agheya