Nashville-based artist Melody Cash is continually finding new ways to help others & express herself.
Drenched in sweat after walking through downtown Nashville on a humid Saturday in June, reaching the shade of Arcade Alley is a relief — and walking into the air conditioned “O” Gallery feels even better.
Melody Cash shows me to her brilliantly colorful wall in the gallery, asking about my day so far, as well as whether I’d been able to find a decent parking spot. Quiet, with a warm and tired-yet-happy vibe, I’m surprised when the interview begins and she crosses her arms, almost as if to protect herself. Her answers are short and to the point for the first few questions.
Eventually, something clicks, and my confusion changes to recognition. I look at Melody and see myself when someone is asking about me. She’s not scared or even stand-offish — she’s an introvert, unused to all the attention being on her. Thinking quickly of the sort of questions I’d enjoy answering, I ask her to tell me about specific pieces on the wall. Instantly, she becomes more animated, uncrossing her arms and pointing out the many layers of her work, a soft smile lighting her face.
I really, really love pop art, and this one is kind of based on Roy Lichtenstein who does a lot of in-distress girls, like comic book style, so I wanted to play off that…” She describes her process of starting with pastels, and sitting down each day, adding a new layer, creating what the music she was listening to caused her to feel.
Pointing out an abstract piece, she tells me, “This one, I added the hands after I had gone to Italy and seen the Sistene Chapel and the Creation of Adam.”
“What about this one?” I ask, pointing at a beautiful, three dimensional piece on a block of wood. She grins impishly.
“That one is actually ‘Painting Without Paint.’ It was for an advanced painting class, and we had to think beyond the boundaries of paint. I’ve always liked mandalas, I like the repetitive nature and that you don’t have to think too much about it, it’s one of those flow movements… so I’d done some research and was brainstorming ideas for what I could do to paint without paint, and I decided to try this string and nail art technique… it was definitely a challenge for me because I don’t really like creating things that are precision based, because I will start to get too perfectionistic about it and shut down. I wanted to test myself, working in a different way — and it felt tedious at first but then it became very meditative, and I wound up really enjoying it.”
“I would say my style is very expressive and bold. I don’t like to put myself in too much of a box, because I really enjoy trying out different techniques and media.”
“Art pushes me out of my comfort zone, and I need something that helps me to do that — otherwise, I’d be stuck.”
This December, Melody will be graduating from Belmont University with a degree in graphic design. While she is confident in the fact that she is and always will be an artist, her time in Nashville did not start out that way. Upon her arrival from Central Arkansas, she was working towards a degree in social work.
“I started to realize social work was not for me, and I dropped all my classes and took a semester off. After a lot of stressing and worrying about my future, I took some personality classes through Belmont, and they give you career paths that match up with your personality — all the top ones were visual artist or musician or other creative fields, and I went, ‘hmmm, maybe this means something.’” She pauses and nods her head thoughtfully. “I don’t think I should go to college for something I don’t really want to do. I wanted it to be something I really loved, and that helped me make the decision.”
“Why did you decide on social work originally, then?”
“I wanted to be able to reach out to people, and that’s something that I still carry over into my artwork. It’s a way to help find connections. I’m just not enough of a people person to actually be a social worker.”
“Do you hope that your career will be more graphic design, then, or more fine art and gallery shows?”
Immediately, she responds, “I want to do both.” Shrugging, she continues, “I want to be a freelancer, really — I want to be able to make my own schedule. And I do want to work in graphic design because I enjoy it and think it’s a cool industry, but I don’t want to forfeit my own art for that. I think that it’s very possible to do both. I don’t think that you just have to say ‘this is it, this is what I’ll do’ — it’s always going to change. Maybe I’ll have a 9–5 job at some point, but I’m still going to want to paint and everything else. It’s just finding a balance.”
“I don’t know exactly what is ahead, but as long as I can continue to create and help others, I’ll be happy.”
As we continue to talk, Melody’s focus always circles back to how she can support others through her art.
“I like to provide a service for someone who needs it because I know how to do something that they don’t know how to do, and maybe they know how to do something that I don’t know how to do — whether it’s making album artwork for people I know, or doing a photoshoot for someone who needs headshots.”
“In addition to that, it seems like a lot of your art is how you are most confident expressing yourself, how you let others know what you’re thinking and feeling.”
She nods in agreement. “Mostly it’s dealing with my own thoughts and things that are going on within me, as a way to express that, or things that I find really visually pleasing.”
“What do you hope others will get from viewing your art?”
“I hope people will get to know me a little better, and I hope they will get pleasure, really… I want people to feel a positive emotion of some sort, or just simply be pleased to see my work.”
“If there’s something that you really love, and it helps you to break out of your shell, you have to do it — otherwise you’re wasting that skill and you’re wasting your own time.”
Later in the evening, I arrive back at Arcade Alley for the First Saturday Art Crawl to find “O” Gallery bursting at the seams with people — a testament to both the featured artists chosen by Olga Alexeeva, as well as the blissfully cool air conditioning.
I work my way back to Melody’s display, and find her standing with her boyfriend and local musician, Jeff Garrison, looking slightly overwhelmed by the amount of people crammed into the small maze of a gallery. Melody waves in a relieved manner when she sees me, and the three of us move off to a corner out of the way. She’s instantly checking on me though, asking how the rest of my day went and offering to get me a glass of wine. As we chat, Jeff swiftly moves to greet some people viewing his girlfriend’s art, telling them all about it.
“I’m relieved he’s willing to jump in and help with that,” she says, smiling after him. We chat a bit longer, enjoying the fact that our corner has a utilitarian fan keeping us extra cool.
A bit later, she has disappeared to get some air outside, and Jeff and I take a moment to chat. During a pause in the conversation, he looks up and a huge smile crosses his face. “That’s my girl,” he says proudly. I look in the same direction, and find that Melody has returned, looking refreshed and happy while passionately explaining the story behind one of her pieces to a riveted couple. I smile too, knowing that sometimes all you need is some peace and quiet to be able to keep going.
Wrapping up our interview earlier in the day, I ask Melody if she has anything else she wants to be sure the readers know. She sits quietly for a moment, then looks me in the eye and says very seriously, “Don’t doubt yourself, because there is always something out there for you. Even if you don’t know what it is yet…
“If you’re passionate, you will find it.”
See Melody’s artwork displayed at “O” Gallery through the end of June, bring some color into your home by supporting her with a purchase on Etsy, and follow Melody Cash Creations on Instagram & Facebook!
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