The Creative Balance of Art and Science: An Interview with Artist Melissa Walter

The Creative Balance of Art and Science: An Interview with Artist Melissa Walter

Galaxy Merger by Melissa Walter, 18″ x 14″, Ink on Paper

Melissa Walter has achieved that artistic nexus, where art at science meet and something extraordinary emerges. Her artwork is at once precise and loose.  Balanced geometric lines and solid tones fade into multiple points and scatter, leaving the void to be filled by underlying coloration. Wire and thread emerge from precisely cut holes in solid material to create patterns both beautiful and mesmerizing. Paper cut and manipulated or holes created in random precision give a feeling of order and impending chaos.

Melissa took some time out her her busy schedule to give us some insight to her work, past and present.

Brian Baxter, Art Guide San Diego: Hi Melissa, thanks for taking the time to talk. I know it’s a busy time for you, being the Artist in Residence at Bread and Salt. How is that going?

Melissa Walter: Hey Brian! Full disclosure, it is my first residency so I was quite nervous going into it. I have worked from home for about 15 years so I wasn’t sure how the transition would go working in a new environment. I’m happy to report though that it has been exponentially smoother than expected. It has been amazing getting the chance to stretch out in this massive space. I really wanted to take advantage of that, so I’m working on an installation piece that I plan to reveal during the residency. But, I would like to mention that the greatest benefit of the residency I’ve realized over the last two weeks has been connecting with so many creative and talented people that come through. I’m so appreciative of everyone that has shared their experience, tips and resources. In particular Tom DeMello and Michael James Armstrong. It has really allowed me to expand my own creativity and pushed my boundaries.

Workspace at Bread and Salt
Workspace at Bread and Salt
Workspace at Bread and Salt

AGSD: Sounds like a bit of culture shock, but in a good way. How did the residency opportunity come about?:

MW: In a very good way. I’m trying to figure out ways to emulate this experience when I return to my home studio. We’ll see if I can come up with something feasible. As for how I got the residency, I saw a call for applications on Facebook and applied. It’s that straightforward.

AGSD: So, you have been working from home for 15 years, but fairly recently decided to make art your full time job. That could not have been an easy place to get to, or an easy decision.

MW: I should start with mentioning what exactly my job has been for that time. I was the science illustrator, graphic designer, and social media administrator for NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. I started working for them in 1998, so yes, it was very difficult to leave. In fact, so hard to leave that I still work as their Science Illustrator…though it isn’t full time or even part time work. It is just a handful of illustrations per year. All that being said though, after being with them for that long I realized that it was time for me to shift gears and follow new directions. It took me a few years of figuring out which direction I should go, to realize that I needed to focus on my art practice again.

I Grow From Your Heart by Melissa Walter, 7″ x 7″, Ink on Paper

AGSD: What started you down the path of being an illustrator and graphic designer?

MW: When I was in college I gravitated toward the computer as an artistic medium almost immediately. I specifically fell in love with Photoshop and the all the possibilities. It seemed like a natural progression to follow the path of a graphic designer. I also create my illustration for NASA on the computer, so when that opportunity presented itself I jumped on it right away.

Geometry of a Fallen Tree by Melissa Walter, 8″ x 8″, Ink on Wood

AGSD: You have been exploring different materials lately with striking results. What is your favored medium now?

MW: That’s a hard one. I’m currently working on a piece where paper is the medium—no ink or paint. In 2016 I took a workshop with local, paper artist, Bhavna Mehta, and she really inspired me. So I’ve decided to run with it and try a large scale installation using cut paper. We’ll see how it turns out.

AGSD: We look forward to that! Where do you currently have your pieces showing around town?

MW: Right now you can view my work at the San Diego International Airport, in the gallery in Terminal 2. It is part of a group exhibit, “Intergalactic Dreaming“, for the year.

Black Hole with Accretion Disk and Jet by Melissa Walter

AGSD: Will the Multiverse remain set up for the duration of your time at Bread and Salt, and can people visit you and see how things are progressing?

MW: “The Immaculate Conception of the Multiverse” should be on view throughout the residency…unless I get a burst of inspiration for that space. And yes, anyone can pop in to the studio. My hours there generally coordinated with the open main gallery hours which are 11:00 am to 4:00 pm, Monday through Friday. People are also welcome to set up an appointment with me. They can email me at

AGSD: It was great to see you and the space at the ‘Moving Forward‘ opening reception on the 14th. There were quite a lot of people were there to see the show and visit you and give support.

MW: It’s always good to see you, Brian! It makes me so happy to see someone working hard to support the art community in San Diego. There are only handful of you these days.

AGSD: Thanks for taking the time out of your busy day to talk! Anything that we haven’t covered you would like to let us know?

MW: I think that about covers it! Thanks for everything, Brian!

Melissa Walter Contact and General Info:


Brian Baxter
January 22, 2017

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