Widely recognized as a leading contemporary Louisiana landscape painter, Melissa Bonin, of French and Acadian descent,resides and paints in Lafayette, Louisiana, in the heart of sugar cane and bayou country and sells her work from her Magazine Street Gallery in New Orleans. Bonin’s love and concern for the waterways, wildlife, and native plants is the source of her painting. She is the feminine link in the Louisiana chain of landscape painters after Drysdale and Elemore Morgan Jr ( her teacher). She earned a BFA in fine arts and a BA in French Studies from the University of Louisiana and L’Ecole Catholique in Angers France, She has also attended Bennington College in Vermont/ Massachusetts College of Art, and Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado. She has exhibited in France, New York, Georgia, Connecticut, North Carolina, South Carolina,Texas and Louisiana. Her works can be found in the private collections of Blake Lively, Emeril Lagasse, Christian Leblanc of Young and the Restless, the Former Governor Kathleen Blanco, Roger Ogden and many more.
"The paintings of Melissa Bonin evoke a spirituality one often finds when a strong emotional relationship between the landscape and the artist.”
John Kemp Louisiana Life Magazine
“Her paintings are quiet, mysterious and beautiful, with a hint of foreboding just beneath the surface… she captures the haunting continuum of the Bayou State Wetlands. When Louisiana spoke this artist listened.”
Doug MacCash , Times Picayune.
"The secrets lying beneath those veils are what give her work its initial ineffable essence. The oil medium is but the marrow of Bonin’s vision of her subtle Acadiana landscapes.” Ron Delhomme The Daily Advertiser
Melissa Bonin was born and raised in New Iberia, Louisiana. The artist began drawing as soon as she was able to hold a tool in her hand. Her father was a butcher and he gave Melissa her first lessons in anatomy and provided her with an abundance of butcher paper upon which she could begin her drawing career. At the age of nine she took an active interest in painting.
At only ten, Melissa was inspired to take a crocheting class because she loved the colors of the threads and working with her hands. Within a year the aspiring artist was designing crocheted coats and evening gowns for women. Subsequently, Melissa was invited to appear on a television program to promote her unique fashions.
In tenth grade she came under the tutelage of writer James Edmunds who was closely associated with the contemporary New York City art scene. He introduced her to the art world outside of South Louisiana and encouraged Melissa to pursue her artistic endeavors.
At fifteen she attended the The University of Southwestern Louisiana at the request of Elemore Morgan, Jr. Her other professors included Herman Mhire, Tom Secrest, and William Moreland. She received a BFA cum laude in painting in 1981. Melissa then traveled to Europe to study fine art and the French language in Angers, Paris, and Southern France. Upon returning to the United States she received a BA cum laude and continued her fine art education at Bennington College and the Massachusetts School of Fine Art.
Along with her studies in art, Melissa studied ballet and performed occasionally with the New Orleans Ballet Company. Some of her master class dance instructors include members of Erick Hawkins, Polobolus, and the Bolshoi.
In 1994 Melissa opened the Left Bank Gallery in New Iberia along with artists Paul Schexnayder. Here, she permanently housed her works of art and also performed live autobiographical one-woman vignettes. Through her affiliation with the gallery she pursued various grant opportunities including programs that combined poetry, performance, and innovative art exhibitions.
Since 1994, the artist has received numerous grants and awards for her artwork and performance projects. Melissa recently completed a 48-foot public mural for the city of New Iberia and produced a film entitled Acadie: Voices and Visions. She has also participated in juried and invitational art exhibits including the Bunk Johnson Festival, Pelicans on Parade. In 1999, she designed a talent program for exceptionally talented children in Iberia Parish along with master teacher of the gifted Judy Huckabay.
Melissa exhibits her paintings throughout the United States and abroad. Her work is in private art collections and has been published in Southern Accents, Louisiana Life, and Artworks magazines. She currently owns and operates her own gallery in New Orleans, Louisiana and spends the rest of her time painting in Lafayette where she now resides.
There is a certain time of day, just before the darkness, when the human eye has difficulty seeing and imagination steps in to fill the gaps. At this time, color is at its richest and trees look like dark spirits waiting and walking in the distant cane fields. My work is a personal, poetic, and symbolic interpretation of my native landscape. It possesses a unique language of color, light, and spatial relationships.
About Painting Technique
In an effort to capture the essence of the Bayou Teche flowing through my birthplace and home, I use oil and various media in a wet-on-wet application. My paintings are done Ã la prima, however sometimes I paint them fifty times, wiping them completely off between paintings in order to arrive at the desired immediate freshness. The painting is done with a sense of urgency. The effect resonates a shimmering calm surface above, while holding a powerful evocative energy below.
About My Work
I want my artwork to exist in its own place in time. Therefore, my themes have a timeless quality. My images and palette are a delicate balance between my love of old world master painters' work and my joy and excitement about modern painting. I like the tension these two elements create together on the same canvas. In my surfaces and applications of paint I strive for the same feeling I get when I approach ancient chinese pottery with their beautiful colors, similicity, and glazes. I love the simple beauty and power of the combination of the elements of water in the glazes, earth in the support, and fire as the transformer.