In 1998, when Melanie Hopkins married her beau Daniel, a loved one gifted the newlyweds a bag of potpourri. Hopkins could’ve been like most people and poured the dried flowers, seeds, and leaves into a crystal bowl to gather dust somewhere. Instead, she pressed the fragrant plant material into handmade cards.
“That was my first collage,” Hopkins tells Asheville Made. “And I loved it.”
In the years to come, collage art became Hopkins’ muse. After a long day editing video at KCET — the flagship PBS station in Los Angeles — she would retreat to her stacks of salvaged magazines, repurposing bits of photographs into newfangled imagery. “From there, it just skyrocketed,” says Hopkins, who left behind her 30-year broadcasting career in 2012 to focus on artwork.
Today, the artist creates her piecemeal scenes in the Stepp and Walker Building, a 19th-century general store located off Spartanburg Highway in East Flat Rock. Hopkins and her husband purchased the 10,000-square-foot structure when they left California in 2020. They have spent the years since rehabilitating the edifice to its former glory, turning the upper north side into a living area and the lower level into a work and gallery space.
“We still have some upgrades and repairs to make,” says Hopkins, “but we hope to eventually open it to the public.”
In the meantime, Hopkins is content to cut and paste in her sun-soaked studio. According to the artist, her most recent work falls into one of three series: “Skies,” “Stripes,” and a representational collection.
The first series features fragments of skies from decades of National Geographic magazines. “There are pieces of sky from as early as the 1940s,” says Hopkins, who spends months paging through publications to find sherbert-colored sunsets and deep blue dawns. “I only take one piece from each photograph; there are no repeats.”
Comparatively, pieces in her “Stripes” collection showcase long strips of magazine images. Put together, the collages look convincingly similar to scan lines — the horizontal bars that made up television images back in the analog days.
Hopkins’ representational scenes also cull inspiration from her broadcasting career. “In video editing, you craft a story based on what images you have,” she says. “This translates into my collage work, where I curate images and put them together to create a story.”
Some of these narratives are politically charged. “I Dreamt of Adam,” for instance, features a male figure constructed of guns, ammunition, knives, trousered legs, and other imagery that nods to toxic masculinity. “I was mad at the history of mankind — emphasis on man,” says Hopkins.
But overall, the artist’s portfolio is decidedly hopeful.
“There’s a lot of beauty in common things,” she says. “I like to pull that beauty from magazines and discarded ephemera and present it in a new light.”
Melanie Hopkins, East Flat Rock, melaniehopkins.com. The artist is represented by The Gallery at Flat Rock (2702-A Greenville Hwy., Flat Rock, galleryflatrock.com) and will have work on display during The BIG Little Show, a small format exhibition running through Sunday, Dec. 31.