Finkenbiner was born and raised in the United States in rural Ohio. In 2008 she received a Bachelor of Arts in Art Education.
Since 2011 she has been living outside the US and moving every couple of years with her husband's job. Living a transitory life brings a great deal of inspiration to her work.
In Yangon, Myanmar, Finkenbiner was inspired by the serenity of people durring a time of change after years of oppression. Her large oil paintings revolved around themes of changing fate. In contrast to the large oil works, her journal of intimate ink drawings captured fleeting rhythms of quotidian life. Upon leaving Myanmar, Finkenbiner took a year long hiatus from oil painting before returning to the medium.
While living in Yerevan, Armenia, Finkenbiner returned to oil painting. These paintings drew from Armenian Myths to illustrate the potential for Armenia to move forward. In Armenia she also took the opportunity to experiment. She began applying ink to upcylcled materials including old windows, glass bottles, and pieced together cardboard blocks.
In 2016 Finkenbiner moved to Harare, Zimbabwe. Here her work has primarily been upcycled; on hand made paper, in discarded glass, and of scrap metal. Her subjects range from people to plants, animals, and structures found across Zimbabwe. Each work reveals a piece of the soul of Zimbabwe.
Melissa Finkenbiner's handmade paper is sourced from Mapepa's paper artist across Zimbabwe. Over the paper she applies a variety of mediums illustrating the people she photographs outside of central Harare. After working with allegorical themes in her oil paintings, she sought to encapsulate the soul of people who feel grounded. Rural Women focuses on laboring women in the rural areas. She uses neutral conte and ink with a single acrylic color on sisal paper. This use of color emphasizes the bright soul laboring through a hard life.
“Passage of identity”
Melissa Finkenbiner’s large scaled canvases are part of her "Passage of Identity" series, which capture the moment or “passage” of monumental changes in life. These figures are deliberately painted without hair, transcending culture and identity to focus in on the moment. Her imagery is laden with mythology and symbols of change. The passages depicted include ideas of death, survival, education, destiny, and changing fate.
In addition to Finkenbiner's classical and controlled large scale works, she creates her studies directly on scaled down canvas. The results of these studies are small objective abstract paintings which stand alone as individual pieces of art.
Melissa Finkenbiner started working with jewelry as a way to make functional art which people could wear. These wearable pieces are made from upcycled scrap pieces of metal including old dinnerware, sheet metal and other bits. She enjoys manipulating the metal to create value from nothing and change the way people view discarded materials. Her favorite pieces play with edges and negative space.
“A Journey in INK”
Melissa Finkenbiner's love for ink media started with colonial festivals as a teenager where she created drawings with a dip fountain pen. While studying printmaking during her undergraduate studies, she discovered etching. Finkenbiner applies a process similar to etching in her ink drawings. By using various black ink pens she creates both delicate lines and blackened shadows. Unlike the grand symbolism found in her oil paintings, Finkenbiner’s quick ink strokes capture the fleeting rhythm of quotidian life around the world. These ink works are literally a visual journal.