Melissa 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, Finkenbiner has been living as a expat. She has moved from Myanmar to Armenia and, most recently, Zimbabwe. The immersion in such diverse places has greatly impacted the themes and mediums of her art.
In Myanmar, Finkenbiner was inspired by the serenity of the various people groups during a time of rapid change. Her large oil paintings revolved around themes of changing fate, while her intimate ink drawings captured fleeting rhythms of everyday life.
While living in Armenia, Finkenbiner’s oil paintings drew from Armenian Myths. Here she expanded into work with upcycled material for sculptural small installations. Her new ‘canvases’ included old windows, glass bottles, and pieced together cardboard blocks.
In 2016 Finkenbiner moved to Zimbabwe, where she will reside until 2020. Here she has continued with the same upcycled foundations and she expanded into working on varied fibers of handmade paper from paper artists around Zimbabwe. While the people continue to be her primary subjects, the landscape has influenced her themes.
Melissa Finkenbiner has an opportunity to see parts of Zimbabwe few people see due to her work with livelihood projects. Rural Women is a series of woman at various stages of life. The women in her series are real women who benefited from the U.S. Embassy small grants program. By using sisal, and grass fiber paper, she starts with something very Zimbabwean. The paper is made by Zimbabwe artist with natural fibers found in the veld. Her neutral conte and ink on the sisal paper create an earthy palette. She adds a single color in acrylic to emphasize 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.