Kreh Mellick’s folkloric fine art, often a collaged mix of gouache and cut paper, feels at once nostalgic and totally of the moment. There’s something comforting in its incorporation of picture-book nature and imaginative figures. But there’s also an adult complexity just under the surface, impeccably rendered, that makes her paintings and drawings feel urgent and iconic.
Her style may have been influenced by growing up with a mom and grandmother who collected antiques. “I spent a lot of time around art and interesting things,” says Mellick, who also notes, “I’ve been drawing pictures my whole life. I was an introverted kid and always enjoyed being able to lose myself and escape into another world.”
Inspired by her childhood interests, she looked to bring some of that sense to her own projects. While studying at Penland School of Craft, she met her husband, an artist in residency at the time. The couple spent a few years traveling back and forth between the Northeast and North Carolina before buying a house and moving to Asheville.
“A lot of my work in past years has centered around cut-paper drawings using organic shapes and natural elements with figures dotted through,” says Mellick. Despite her artistic training, she says she “likes the naïve hand of children’s-book illustration — the idea that you can come to those pictures with your own story.”
The artist has shown in galleries throughout the region, the U.S., and the world. Her pieces are carried by the high-end artisan brand Esqueleto in Los Angeles, and she’s had illustrations included in numerous publications. Music fans might recognize her work as the cover art of Angel Olsen’s 2014 album Burn Your Fire for No Witness, an indie sensation that landed on “best of the year” and “best of the decade” lists for A.V. Club, Village Voice and Pitchfork.
Recently, Mellick’s style has reflected a burgeoning interest in wind, weathervanes, and the movement implied. She’s also been working on a few still lifes, which are not, she admits, a subject she’s painted much before. “Blame the pandemic,” she says. “Every now and then, you need to stare at something in your space that isn’t just a wall.”
Mellick’s 2020 has not been all trial and tribulation, though. She had a daughter in March and will close out the year with a show at Asheville’s Blue Spiral 1. “It took me a long time to get back into the studio after maternity leave, but I’m working on new things, and excited for the upcoming show.”
Ten percent of the profits from the Blue Spiral 1 show will go toward Crafting the Future, a nonprofit geared to promoting equity in the craft world by connecting BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) artists with opportunities to help them thrive. Founded by Mellick’s fellow Penland alumni Corey Pemberton and Annie Evelyn, Crafting the Future is built on the notion of artists empowering other artists.
“It’s a great organization,” says Mellick. “I’m delighted to be able to help out.”
Kreh Mellick, Asheville. Mellick’s work will be featured in the Small Format Gallery at Blue Spiral 1 Contemporary Fine Art + Craft through Friday, Jan. 8 (38 Biltmore Ave., Asheville, bluespiral1.com) and in the group show Drawn at the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art in Winston-Salem, through February (secca.org). For more information, see krehmellick.com.