Melody Davis Is Covering Westminster with Art

Melody Davis, who recently joined the Anderson Artists Guild, is painting the town of Westminster red—and lots of other colors. She first painted an exterior wall of the Gateway Arts Center, which she owns. Then she went around town asking others if she could decorate their buildings, too. The designs range from replicated classics like Mona Lisa and Starry Night to an altered take on the famous picture of dogs playing poker to an original design featuring a rippling South Carolina state flag and a batter from an old Upstate mill team. “There are seven more in the queue,” she said. “My plan is to redo Westminster.”

Growing up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Davis had two loves: animals and art. “I was into horses and drawing and drawing horses,” she said. At Carnegie Mellon University, she majored in painting, drawing, and art history. Following some uninspiring jobs, she went to work for a mapping company in Florida as a cartographer, a profession she enjoyed for 18 years, including positions with the county, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Fish and Wildlife. Working from aerial photographs, she did a lot of maps, drawing contour lines with a ruby-tipped scriber. Her job was to designate hiking trails, for instance, or to distinguish the terrain and landmarks for the military. For the county, she would map roads, bridges, storm sewers, and property lines. When the process went digital, she unwillingly went along, eventually learning to like drawing with a stylus on the computer.

After a decade of visiting Oconee County to camp, she and her family moved there in 2007, and Davis soon became deeply involved with the Blue Ridge Arts Center in Seneca. In 2017, she bought the building that became the Gateway Arts Center. She has worked hard to become part of the community and is proudest of the free special needs art classes she offers.

For her own artwork, she uses acrylic paint and charcoal on a large canvas—up to five feet by eight feet. She finds herself most moved to depict different kinds of struggles. One of her pieces shows a mixed-race couple lying in a cellar entrance amidst floating garbage from a flood. Another—which involves several dozen pieces—portrays the world’s dictators and their victims.

She works from photos she takes or finds, including Instagram selfies posted by front-line workers during the pandemic. “I remember coming across this picture of a doctor with raw open sores on his face and thinking that he stands there day after day with his mask on watching all this suffering,” she said.

Years ago, Davis had a business painting interior murals for clients, everything from geometric designs to Disney princesses. But she didn’t really enjoy it. “It wasn’t moving or exciting to me,” she said. “Now I don’t paint anything unless I want to paint it.”

To see more of Davis’ work, visit, https://gatewayartscenter.net/covid-19-heroes/.

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