Melanie Bikowski ~ An Interview with the Artist

Jordan Wright
December 16, 2017
Special to The Alexandria Times

Melanie Bikowski

Alexandria artist Melanie Bikowski is a mom first – at least that’s how she’d prefer you to think of her.  Mother to two-year old Cayce, she is relatively new to the art world, yet in a few short years she has developed quite a following for her colorful acrylics.  Originally from Hampton Roads in Southeastern Virginia, Bikowski grew up in Norfolk, moving to Alexandria five years ago.  After getting dual bachelors’ degrees in Psychology and Creative Writing, she continues to seek her major in psychology at Old Dominion University.  Her thesis is on ‘Mom’s Art’, a term that’s been used to describe the work of Canadian artist Ruth Oosterman, who also found inspiration collaborating with her toddler.  Bikowski explains, “A lot of my work is bright, amorphous, abstract modern art and I wanted to incorporate my mom life into my work.”  In the spirit of honoring a child’s drawings that most parents merely tack onto the refrigerator, Bikowski says, “I feel like that’s the reality of our home décor.  Other people live in your home and they leave their work there too.”

Abstract works with daughter Cayce

While pregnant with Cayce, Bikowski had begun to have dreams of painting canvasses with her daughter.  “We’ve been doing pure creation together while building our relationship.  She has now become my muse.”  Defining her paintings as spur-of-the-moment, intuitive, emotional art, she believes if an artist “flows the best of their emotions are at their highest.”  She feels her daughter’s limitless sense of wonderment, childlike experimentation and freedom of expression inspire her, leading her to incorporate Cayce’s coloring pieces, drawings and stickers into her paintings.  The toddler’s current fantasy playworld is heavily influenced by the Powerpuff Girls and My Little Pony.

“When I moved here my biggest dream was to be an artist.  People were telling me that doesn’t exist,” Bikowski says.  One day, while at her first job in Alexandria at the Robinson Terminal, fate drew her to the nearby Torpedo Factory where she found a gallery filled with dozens of artists.  “I was stoked to see what was going on there and went every weekday after that.  Watching the artists and hearing how excited they were – that just really saved me,” she says.

Green Painting- "Home" Mel Bikowski 2016- Promotional Painting for Sensorium at Del Ray Artisans

“Home” Melanie Bikowski 2016

In January of 2014 her mother convinced her to take a course in abstract art at Alexandria’s famed The Art League with instructor, Beverly Ryan.  Through Ryan, whom she considers her mentor, she took on an art challenge to complete one painting a day for a year.  That massive effort turned into 466 paintings, of which she sold over 100.  Over 80 of her paintings have Cayce’s work in them.  During the same period, she discovered the Del Ray Artisans Gallery on Mount Vernon Avenue.  Now celebrating its 25th year promoting art and artists in Alexandria, the gallery hosts monthly members’ shows open to the public.  There she found a welcoming art scene with members helping each other find alternative submission opportunities.

That led her to collaborate on a show earlier this year with local artist, Lotus Heartsong, at the The Village Gallery in Old Town Fairfax.  Featured in the Washington Post’s Going Out Guide, the women were thrilled to welcome over 300 people to their opening.  As a result of the show’s huge success, she received a residency at Olly Olly, an alternative art space and gallery in Fairfax where she shares working space with four other artists and is able to show at their exhibitions.

“A Call for Courage” Melanie Bikowski 2017

This January Bikowski will co-curate Sensorium with fellow DRA member Betsy Mead.  The exhibit is described as the using the part of the brain that, “evokes emotional feelings of sympathy, appreciation or gratitude, or something that is moving, heartbreaking or tender”, and honors “how artists interpret the impact of our human journey through evoking the five senses.”  The show’s cover art is Bikowski’s evocative painting, “Home”.

Sensorium runs from January 5th – 28th 2018 at the Colasanto Center, 2704 Mount Vernon Avenue, Alexandria, VA 22301.  Gallery hours are Thursdays 12-6pm, Fridays 12-9pm, Saturdays 12-9pm, and Sundays 12-6pm. The gallery is free and handicap accessible.  For more information on the show visit The Del Ray Artisans Gallery.  To learn more about Melanie Bikowski visit her website.

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