Lisa Mellinger, a Tacoma native, started her journey as an artist right here in this little corner of Washington. After graduating from Washington State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts, she moved to Texas where she earned her Master of Fine Arts degree.
In the years after she graduated, she spent most of her time traveling, teaching and educating young artists. However, in her downtime, she was fine tuning her artistry in new and exhilarating ways. Her various projects took her all over the country and beyond, from San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, painting murals in private homes, to Sante Fe, New Mexico, where she was commissioned to paint a vintage 1969 convertible Volkswagen.
Lisa recalls, “That was one of my all time favorite traveling adventures. I had to put car paint into spray cans. I put wild rattlesnakes on the sides to form racing stripes, and cactus pads coming out the back fenders like flames. It was the coolest!”
One of Lisa’s favorite memories was when she worked alongside the famous artist, Christo, and his wife, Jeanne Claude, in Miami, Florida. Lisa admired the pair enormously because they were famous for eccentric sculptures and multifaceted installations that were constructed and featured in places all over the world. The piece that Lisa assisted them with was Surrounded Islands, which had Christo wrapping twelve different islands in various pink fabrics.
Among her many adventures, Lisa spent time in New York where she taught art at several elementary schools and community colleges over the span of seven years. While in New York, one of Lisa’s favorite places to go was the salon of Louise Bourgeois, located inside her home, where she spent a considerable amount of time mentoring Lisa. Bourgeois was one of the most renowned female sculptors the world has ever seen, and dedicated most of her time and majority of her life to art before passing away in 2010.
Although she enjoyed the years she spent exploring, Lisa was drawn back to the Northwest. She wanted to be close to her brother and father, while also giving herself time to continue with her craft. What better place to come back to than the community where your life as an artist began?
Soon after moving back, she went on to accept a position as an Art Specialist at Gig Harbor Academy. She stayed there for a handful of years before eventually deciding that she wanted to teach a little closer to home. A decision that granted her the opportunity to teach at South Puget Sound Community College, where she teaches currently.
Lisa’s vast experience within the art community gives her the ability to connect with all types of people that walk into her classroom at SPSCC. As one of her former students myself, one of her top priorities was to encourage my classmates and me to put all that we had into each piece that we worked on. Our Beginning Painting class was full of students who had never picked up a paintbrush before and, although Lisa did circle the classroom continuously giving tips and tricks, she spent even more time praising us for how our skills and techniques had improved over the course of the quarter. Her teaching style allows people to tap into pieces of themselves and their imagination that inflame their inner creativity. This opens the door for her students to grow as artists and also grants them the capacity to take the time to appreciate their peers’ work.
“She taught us about artists that started out just like we did, and she showed us that your skill is what you make of it. Her class was by far one of my favorites I’ve taken here at SPSCC”, says Naomi, a fellow student from that Beginning Painting class.
Aside from teaching, Lisa’s specialties vary drastically and cover a huge range of material when it comes to the art world. Most often, she can be found in her studio at home, paintbrush in hand, deeply involved in her newest work. Although painting will always be one of her favorite forms of artistic expression, sculpting comes in a close second.
She tells me, “I love walking around my yard, my house, and even around my studio, and gathering random objects that I can incorporate into my pieces. Once, I even cut up a garden hose and super glued it together to make a fruit bowl.”
Students who have taken Lisa’s art classes have nothing but good sentiments when it comes to the ambiance she creates in her classrooms. Her goal is to embolden and motivate people from all walks of life to express themselves by creating meaningful art.
She is beloved and admired throughout the Olympia community and is credited for inspiring people to continue with their art throughout their college career, and beyond.
To see more of Lisa’s work, visit her online portfolio of paintings and sculpture.