Visual artist Melissa Zarem is not used to quiet. A native of New York City, she and her husband and two young children moved to Ithaca 10 years ago. In her small studio at home, she’s almost always listening to something — NPR, podcasts, music — even a voice at the other end of the phone while she paints.
Saltonstall is her first residency, and the quiet environment changed how she’s been working. “I’m shocked at how little I’ve wanted to listen to anything,” she says. “I got here, and all I wanted was the silence. I have one job here. I’m giving myself permission to be in the silence.”
With an upcoming solo exhibition at Exhibit A in nearby Corning, NY, Melissa has been working on some larger pieces specifically for the show. Otherwise, she’s trying not to have much of an agenda. “I wanted time to just experiment,” she says. “I wanted to make a mess with something with no expectations.”
This is the first time Melissa has ever temporarily moved her studio. At first, she wondered if she’d be able to work in an unfamiliar space. “The first few days, I was worried,” she says. “I thought, ‘what if I don’t come home with anything I like?’ But as of yesterday, I think I have one or two things finished, which blew my mind.”