How an Artist and Author Came Together to Create Something Beautiful

From October 20—22, 2017, the Stratford Writers Festival will take over Stratford, Ontario, as some of Canada’s top literary and creative talents come together for this unique three-day festival. With the festival rapidly approaching, we caught up with attending artist Catherine Mellinger to ask her a few questions about her latest projects, and why literary festivals are important to the Canadian artistic community.

To hear more from Catherine, click here to purchase tickets to her upcoming Stratford Writers Festival event with Marianne Apostolides entitled The Perfect Pairing: Combining Art and Literature.

How did you come up with the art for Deep Salt Water? Did you work closely with Marianne, or more independently? 

The ideas for the art in Deep Salt Water came very much from Marianne’s writing—her layering of imagery and story, as well as her having shared some of the resources she had found in researching the book. My way of working was to read, research, then let sit what I’d read and be moved by images I was finding in my materials—as well as images I was inspired by when doing research. For example, the piece “Muscle” was looking to capture a sense of tension, the push and pull of decision making and sexual desire, as well as love and longing, with the visual inspiration coming from looking at images of actual muscle tissues. I would say that Marianne and I worked closely but also independently. As she edited Deep Salt Water, she would send me revisions when there were key visual elements that might have changed within a section or been added in, so I could gain more inspiration. I would also regularly send her images of what I was working on, and collage ideas or resource images I had found as I went along, to see what connected for her within the works. The images, however, did not affect her writing or editing, so in that way I think we were both independent yet linked.

What themes and ideas do you try to explore in your art?

I try to explore dichotomy more than anything. I am fed by the push and pull of beauty versus emotional disturbance—moments in which we may feel our most “ugly.” I am inspired by trauma and always have been—it’s a ripe topic for me in my personal life, trauma experienced by my family, by me personally, and by citizens of the world, which also allows for a discovery of resiliency and at times something beautiful as a repercussion of the experience. I also seem to naturally conjure images that look beautiful, yet make you question what lies behind it—which is often something a bit more disturbing. I feel it’s a real mirror of life for me, the difference between the outside and in, what others see and what we experience, what we feel and what we remember. It’s not to say that life is always disturbing, but I think so much of life happens in challenges, and it doesn’t at all take away from the beauty of life. My art has always provided me with an outlet to voice myself—or be able to gain an observer’s perspective on what affects me.

Why do you feel it’s important to meet readers at events such as the Stratford Writers Festival?

I have always found inspiration in meeting people who offer me a different perspective. A different view of a book, or even my own work. I find it very grounding and connecting.

What is your favourite part about attending writers festivals or literary events?

I haven’t attended many, but when I have I have appreciated hearing from other artists what their process is, what they love about writing, but also what is challenging. We face so many challenges in our processes and it’s grounding to know I’m not alone, and that it’s not just visual artists, but all artists that face those creative dark moments.

Are you working on any projects right now?

I’m over 7 months pregnant now, so that is a big project I’m working on! While I wait for this babe to join our family, the biggest project I have to complete is a collective installation which will be exhibited at Gladstone Hotel’s “Come Up To My Room” in January 2018. The installation examines a women’s journal into postpartum psychosis and is based on the short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. I’m quite excited to be a part of it and see how it all unfolds! I also have grant applications in for a project based on my great-uncle’s journal, which he kept from 1943-1945 during WWII. He was a member of the French Resistance in German occupied Alsace in France. He had just been released from the concentration camp in Struthof, and my great-aunt was about to give birth to their first and only son. He chose to write the journal from the perspective of his son—starting as an unborn babe and continuing until he was just over 6 months. I was once again struck by the dichotomy of the journal, in the sense of the light-hearted nature and innocence in which he wrote about one of the most horrible times of their lives.


To hear more, don’t miss Catherine’s event entitled The Perfect Pairing: Combining Art and Literature on Saturday October 21, at 11:30 am at Revel Café as part of the Stratford Writers Festival. See you there!

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What themes do you explore in your art or writing?