Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Art feature: Photo artist Moore takes her cues from nature

Friends Forever,‭ ‬by Melinda Moore.


By‭ ‬Tom Tracy


Melinda Moore arrived at a monthly roundtable of photo artists in West Palm Beach and pulled from a shoulder bag four or five new travel-photo scenic prints she had quickly matted that afternoon.

They were rich,‭ ‬gallery-quality black-and-whites of London street life,‭ ‬but no biggie:‭ ‬Moore‭ —‬ who comes across as everyone’s favorite aunt who has been around the world more times than anyone else you know‭ —‬ had worked up the prints overnight as a show-and-tell for the Palm Beach Photographic Center’s InFocus study group in June.‭

Most of the Florida native’s body of photographic digital art concerns itself with the natural world,‭ ‬and predominantly birds.‭ ‬While there are plenty of people photographing wildlife and turning those images into gallery-grade digital art or photo‭ “‬paintings,‭” ‬not many people are producing gallery-grade painting.‭

The Palm Beach Gardens City Hall is showcasing some‭ ‬50‭ ‬of Moore’s pieces this summer as part of its GardensArt program.‭ ‬Creative Focus:‭ ‬Photography and Digital Art by Melinda Moore opened June‭ ‬27‭ ‬and runs through Aug.‭ ‬25‭ ‬in the City Hall lobby.‭ ‬The exhibit features Florida birds and landscapes,‭ ‬jungle cats and elephants,‭ ‬both in straight photographic renderings and through Moore’s texture montage and digital painting composites.

Last month,‭ ‬Moore took Best of Show‭ (‬first place‭) ‬at the‭ ‬15th Annual InFocus juried exhibition of the Palm Beach Photographic Centre in West Palm Beach,‭ ‬which included a‭ ‬$950‭ ‬cash prize.‭ ‬Moore’s‭ ‬Friends Forever,‭ ‬an image of two elephants embracing each other’s trunks,‭ ‬beat out entries from around the country and beyond.‭ ‬The juror was Atlanta-based commercial photographer Kevin Ames.

Growing up in and around the Everglades,‭ ‬Moore said nature has been her principal art teacher.‭ ‬After her parents settled in the Lake Ida area of western Delray Beach in the‭ ‬1950s,‭ ‬her father designed and built some of the early housing that still surrounds the lake today.‭ ‬At home,‭ ‬Moore and her mother kept a journal of the birds and wildlife they encountered there.‭ ‬She kept that up for two decades in Europe,‭ ‬where she lived for almost two decades and raised a daughter.

Melinda Moore at work.‭
(‬Photo by Tom Tracy‭)


Her interest in photography started as a child with her friend Julie,‭ ‬who had a Brownie camera and a Super‭ ‬8‭ ‬film camera.‭ ‬In her adulthood,‭ ‬Moore found a piece of untouched Everglades at Grassy Waters Nature Preserve and started volunteering there to reconnect with a lifelong passion for photography.‭

“I think it has to do with the light,‭ ‬weather and atmosphere and watching the animals and birds,‭” ‬Moore said.‭ “‬I loved‭ (‬James John‭) ‬Audubon and his artwork when I was young,‭ ‬and I felt very protective of and engaged in the Everglades‭ – ‬pretty much with the snakes and the alligators at the back door.‭”

While perhaps not an expert birdwatcher per se,‭ ‬Moore knows her way around birds and she said she is still learning some of the species.‭ ‬In Florida,‭ ‬birds‭ – ‬especially the white egret varieties,‭ ‬warblers and other small birds‭ – ‬are her favorite artistic subject.‭ ‬Her favorite places for photographing birds include the Green Cay Nature and Grassy Waters Preserves in Boynton Beach,‭ ‬the Wakodahatchee Wetlands in Delray Beach,‭ ‬and Merritt Island near Cape Canaveral.

‭“‬Things come along that are supposed to happen to you and it just works out that my camera likes birds.‭ ‬I could take a picture of a flower but it won’t be as good as a bird.‭ ‬I realize I enjoy subjects with soul.‭ ‬And I would like to do more‭ (‬people‭) ‬portraiture in the future.‭”

Cattle Egret,‭ ‬by Melinda Moore.

Another good place for birding is Clyde Butcher’s front yard on Florida’s southwest coast.‭ ‬Butcher is the renowned South Florida-based Everglades wildlife photographer in the Ansel Adams style.‭ “‬I went there this year and saw every kind of bird you can imagine in the canal in the front yard,‭” ‬she said.‭

Any place is fair game for finding birds,‭ ‬including aviaries,‭ ‬zoos and in the wild,‭ ‬from Florida to Canada and beyond.‭ ‬If she doesn’t like the bird’s environment,‭ ‬she changes it out or alters it with her digital texturing process,‭ ‬which she calls‭ “‬morphography.‭”

Textures are digital images of colors,‭ ‬shapes,‭ ‬billows of light rays or sprays of water,‭ ‬scanned materials and papers,‭ ‬sometimes warped with digital brushes and cloning techniques,‭ ‬then blended underneath or around the principal photograph.‭

Use of textures has also given a unifying theme to Moore’s output,‭ ‬which is printed on fine archival papers,‭ ‬canvas and sometimes ceramic tiles.‭ ‬She prefers to print at M‭ & ‬M Studios Framing in Jupiter.‭

“I wanted to do a body of work,‭” ‬Moore said.‭ “‬With the whole textured feel to the birds‭ – ‬that can stand as a group and can blend together.‭ ‬You can change the tonal quality of the subject itself with the textures,‭ ‬and so that creates a series of a similar tone.‭ ‬It is a whole learning and experimenting thing and seeing what texture goes with what.‭”

Moore started her professional career early when she walked into Bethesda Memorial Hospital at the age of‭ ‬16‭ ‬and became a volunteer.‭ ‬She studied nursing at Florida State University,‭ ‬then later taking nursing positions at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston and at Yale University in New Haven,‭ ‬Conn.‭ ‬Midlife burnout set in after heavy hospital work as a charge nurse,‭ ‬and she returned to Florida with the idea of living on a boat and sailing,‭ ‬which she did.‭

The Dory,‭ ‬by Melinda Moore.

For a number of years Moore earned a living through boat rebuilding,‭ ‬chartering and brokering.‭ ‬Later,‭ ‬her parents moved to southern Spain on the advice of her father’s doctor who prescribed the Andalusian climate as a remedy for his severe allergies.‭ ‬She and their daughter joined them,‭ ‬and Moore opened a property management and real estate company during Spain’s‭ ‬20-‭ ‬or‭ ‬30-year land and development boom,‭ ‬which only abated recently.‭

In Spain,‭ ‬Moore learned the art of flower arranging and art appreciation through nine years of association with a Japanese cultural and healing society in Spain,‭ ‬and she traveled extensively throughout the Continent.‭ ‬In the rural life of Spain and elsewhere she soaked up a generous array of musical and artistic expression that was nurtured at the village level and the big cities.‭ ‬The Tate Museum in London and the Prado in Madrid were personal favorites,‭ ‬as well as a vast,‭ ‬little-known art world that she stumbled on in the former Yugoslavia before the country’s breakup in the civil wars of the early‭ ‬1990s.‭

“Some of the most amazing places for artwork were Montenegro and Yugoslavia,‭” ‬she said.‭ “‬There was a treasure trove of artwork that was totally untouched and in strange little museums and strange little places:‭ ‬paintings cared for by monks on mountain tops from the periods of Titian and Rubens.‭ ‬People there were very into art and culture,‭ ‬and the artists were revered.‭”

Moore returned to Florida in‭ ‬2001‭ ‬and now lives with her husband Bill Dacamara,‭ ‬a computer program designer,‭ ‬in Palm Beach Gardens.‭ ‬Her daughter,‭ ‬Danielle Lucas,‭ ‬is a graphic artist living in Europe.‭

She returned to an active life as a photographic artist through Flickr,‭ ‬the online photography-sharing and educational community where photo artists from around the world congregate in various special-interest subgroups.‭ ‬From there,‭ ‬she sought out local artists‭’ ‬associations online.‭

After winning some national recognition,‭ ‬Moore was invited to be featured artist at M‭ & ‬M Studios and Lighthouse Art Gallery in Jupiter.‭ ‬She is active in Photo Salon at the Armory Arts Center,‭ ‬the Boca Museum Artist’s Guild,‭ ‬the Audubon Society and‭ ‬many other groups.‭ ‬Currently,‭ ‬she has three pieces in the Amory’s‭ ‬In and Out of Focus exhibit,‭ ‬and this summer’s InFocus exhibit at the Palm Beach Photographic Centre.‭

“I saw her work in a website called Artists of Palm Beach County,‭” ‬said Amy Stepper,‭ ‬director of GardensArt and a recreation supervisor for the city of Palm Beach Gardens.‭ ‬Stepper invited Moore to be the featured summer exhibit at City Hall,‭ ‬and on Friday,‭ ‬some‭ ‬50‭ ‬children from the Gardens Camp summer program will spend a day with Moore and her exhibit.‭

“Since it was summer,‭ ‬I was trying to find something that would appeal to all ages,‭” ‬Stepper said,‭ ‬noting that Moore photographs things sometimes in our own backyards that we don't always notice.‭ “‬She has techniques of bringing things out in nature that we take for granted.‭ ‬It creates almost a painterly look and although it is photography,‭ ‬it sometimes blurs the lines.‭”

The Day Before,‭ ‬by Melinda Moore.

Janet Heaton,‭ ‬a local painter and gallery owner who sits on the board for the Friends of John D.‭ ‬MacArthur Beach State Park on Singer Island,‭ ‬met Moore at an arts supply store,‭ ‬and became an admirer of her work.

‭“‬I like the translucent quality,‭ ‬the use of colors,‭ ‬the use of light that is like glass or the water,‭” ‬Heaton said.

The two kept in touch and Heaton invited her to do an exhibit at the park earlier this year.‭ ‬Heaton said she is impressed with Moore’s talent but also her work ethic:‭ ‬She knows how to stay on top of things and handle the follow-through‭ — ‬a quality not always present in the arts community.‭

“She has an eye for objects.‭ ‬She doesn’t just shoot a bird or animal‭; ‬she captures it in very good light and good composition,‭” ‬Heaton said.‭ “‬I have worked with many artists and had a gallery for many years and represented some of the finest wildlife artists from the United States and Africa,‭ ‬and Melinda is on top of things.‭ ‬A lot of artists don’t think that is important,‭ ‬but if you are being represented in a gallery that is important.‭”

Creating the artwork,‭ ‬Moore said,‭ ‬is the fun part,‭ ‬while getting it into production and framed can be the most difficult stage of preparing to show work.‭ ‬A portion of the‭ ‬Creative Focus show will benefit GardensArt and the Audubon Society of the Everglades.‭

“I have been very blessed in this life with the freedom to travel and enjoy other cultures, which I feel is a big influence on my current work,‭” ‬Moore said.‭ “‬Those memories and experience inspire me.‭”

Creative Focus‭ ‬can be seen from‭ ‬8‭ ‬a.m.‭ ‬to‭ ‬5‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Monday through Friday in the lobby of the Palm Beach Gardens City Hall,‭ ‬10500‭ ‬N.‭ ‬Military Trail,‭ ‬through Aug.‭ ‬25.‭ ‬For more information,‭ ‬visit www.photoartbymelinda.com or call‭ (‬561‭) ‬630-1116.‭

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