Melinda Hurst Frye is a Seattle-based artist, who uses a scanner in her work to create fictional scenes of plants and their root systems, and the creepy crawly bugs that live under our feet.
For her Underneath body of work, she started out in her front yard, where she would dig a hole big enough to fit her scanner, let the dirt settle for a few days, and then return and place the scanner in the hole, add any insects that she didn't want to add to the scene in post production and scan an image. She makes 5-30 scans of the scene, with lights aimed strategically, and sticks propping the scanner up to keep it still. Afterwards, she scans other insects, or visits Burke Museum of National History and Culture, and photographs taxidermy specimens of moles, or groundhogs in their labs.
This work evolved from an exploration of what was above the earth by scanning high resolution "portraits" of insects, and grubs, caterpillars, and larvae, but her interest in what is hidden led her to start digging into the ground and scanning the critters found below the surface. This play then brought her to her current process of placing the scanner in the holes she digs.
I love the playful and experimental nature and quality of Melinda's work!
I asked Melinda about her influences, and she responded with this:
My experience as a mother has had a big impact on my work. I mine my personal life for subject matter, and kids are pretty consuming. Their initial wonder and exploration of nature, watching insects and digging in the soil, have been a big influence on my work. I want each image to present or inspire curiosity in the viewer, the kind that echoes what we felt as kids when spotting a bug in a flower or under the leaves. Additionally, the general aesthetic (lighting, color palette, and tableaux-like compositions) of Dutch master still life paintings helps me make certain decisions when building an image. When I get stuck, I go to them.
I adore Louis Bourgeois and her spider series—specifically Maman* in Ottawa. First off, it is 30 feet high and when you stand under it you feel like prey, it is an experience rather than something you walk by. I connect with her nod to motherhood in the piece: motherhood that is less saccharine or huggy, and more raw and sharp. Still loving, however, packaged in a leggy spider that is not interested in our acceptance, but the survival of her babies.
Lori Nix and Julie Blackmon are big faves with their narrative photographs and unique approaches. I can stare at those images for days. Both Emmet Gowin and Harry Callahan made imagery of their family that are so tender and kind. Recently I saw an image by Gowin of his wife Edith with silhouettes of moths** all over the image and I just about
died. All of my worlds came together in that piece.