MFAH Teaching Artist Shares Her Inspirations for “Metamorphosis” September 23, 2020

Artist Melissa Aytenfisu, who is a teaching artist at the MFAH, writes about how she was inspired to create “Metamorphosis,” her first solo Houston exhibition.

Metamorphosis was inspired by my move to Houston’s historic Third Ward in 2018. Walking my toddlers down Emancipation Avenue and Isabella Street, I saw the residue of hopelessness, pain, and misfortune. There were empty gun shells, mangled vehicle parts, jagged beer-bottle shards, and charred clothing strewn about. I recognized these items as the debris of personal disruption and anguish. When I looked closer, however, I saw the same objects as elements of artistic beauty and meaning.

Darkness into Light
In times of darkness, despair, and degradation, there are elements of light, hope, and recovery. The detritus of violent and destructive acts can be harvested and reconfigured to produce works of uplifting beauty and meaning. Such thoughts have inspired and infused my latest series of print media, Metamorphosis.

I brought found objects home to my studio and used them to create prints. In one piece, a cast-off bike wheel doubles as a luminous sunrise. Fabrics salvaged from the rubble of a burnt house speak to the ruinous effects of fire.

An Intriguing Weave
In my art pieces, these objects depict an intriguing weave that suggests promising new patterns in life. The prints evoke tranquility and dynamism in equal measures.

I hope viewers will think of the word “metamorphosis” and how it applies to changes in their own lives. The process of transforming physical remnants of human breakdown into works of art has brought me enlightenment and joy. It has shown me that just as damaged physical objects can be reclaimed and reconstructed to produce beauty and meaning, so too can wounded spirits be revived and healed.

Working at the MFAH has hugely influenced my personal art practice. Being surrounded by incredible art in our Museum has directly inspired me to try new techniques and to incorporate them into my own artwork. I wouldn't be the artist I am today if it weren’t for my job at the MFAH.

Explore “Metamorphosis”
Melissa Aytenfisu’s exhibition premiered at the Houston Museum of African American Culture in June, and you can look through the online publication here. To see “Metamorphosis” in person, mark your calendar for October 18, when the show opens in downtown Houston at City Hall, 901 Bagby Street.