Q&A with Texas-Based Melissa Borrell
WAG tapped Austin-based artist Melissa Borrell to create a mesmerizing commission for one of our corporate clients, a global investment management firm with headquarters in Austin. “TopoGraph” is a visual confection of a sculpture, providing changing views as you experience the art from different angles. Inspired both by Hill Country topology and by the visually cyclical nature of financial markets, the work captured our clients’ celebration of their expansion into the Lone Star state and of their proud corporate culture.
Visually connecting Texas Hill Country topography to financial graphs is a fascinating choice. What inspired or led you to these themes?
I wanted to create a piece that connected directly to the essential nature of the work that takes place in the office. At the same time I wanted to give a sense of place and had a desire to allude to the local landscape. Environmental concerns are important to the company and they wanted to convey that to their clients so that was a priority as well. All of these ideas converged as I researched financial graphs and it just naturally flowed; as I played with the graph lines and experimented with layering them I realized that they created a topology and it was a eureka moment. The change that happens over time is universal and the graph is a mathematical tool that tracks this change; geography is a very different record of change over time.
How do you approach the art commission process? How do you balance your vision as an artist while also creating something that is meaningful and specific to a client?
I bring my personal voice to every project I work on. The challenge of each project is to listen to the needs of the client and use my visual language to convey that message. Really understanding what their priorities are guides me and keeps me focused and is the starting point for my process. Keeping my mind open I brainstorm, research, and look for visual references that relate to the client. The magic happens when I find a solution for expressing their message that intersects with something I’ve been curious about or exploring in my artwork. For example, I have been playing with and thinking about topography, layers, and ways to communicate change and growth in my work for many years. It was really a natural fit to create a new landscape for this project. I was able to explore something that I’ve been interested in for my whole artistic career.
The artwork changes in dynamic ways as you move through the space and around the installation. Can you tell us more about how you create this type of experience and why it’s important to you?
Change and transformation has always been an important element for me. Sculpture is inherently different depending on the perspective from which it is seen from and I really want to emphasize that change. I think it has something to do with creating an experience. It is really hard to articulate why exactly this is so important to me but I want the viewer to be immersed in the work.
How does art function in a public setting? What do you hope that passersby will feel as they engage with your artwork on a daily basis?
I want people to understand that they matter and that they are not separate from the work, if that makes sense. Their experience of the piece will change in relation to the distance and angle from which they are viewing it. To me a successful piece is one that people want to touch, they want to understand it with more senses than just their eyes. And hopefully it makes them smile, take a breath and look around and see things from a new perspective that they didn’t notice yesterday or last week.