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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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The Verve: Artist’s work inspired by her world travels, reflect human condition

Jennifer Larue

Melanie Lieb grew up all over the suburbs of Chicago, moving every couple of years after her parents divorced when she was 5.

Her father was a cartoonist who had a tackle box filled with markers and, when she got her own set of markers that smelled like fruit, she did drawings with him. She attended a summer art program at a Jewish Community Center and at age 11 she went to a private art school. Her first oil painting was of Super Pickle. Her second was in Bob Ross’ style.

While still in high school, she studied art at a community college and skipped classes to hang out in the art room. She went on to study art at the Milwaukee Art Institute and the Chicago Art Institute without ever getting a degree. “I got bored,” she said.

Lieb doesn’t like to be bored. She has changed her environment often, traveling to exotic locations and permanently marking her arm in remembrance of places like Thailand, Brazil, Israel, Germany, Holland and Morocco. Between travels, she worked for many years as a picture framer, once handling work on paper by Cy Twombly (worth more than $1 million) at an art conservation center. When she finally got sick of Chicago, she bought a flower shop on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where she met her husband.

All the while, she painted, capturing life as she saw it. “I live out my dreams, my fears, and my experiences through my art. It is a lifelong study of the human condition and of my own condition,” she said. “My art is my travels, my childhood, my family and friends, enemies and heroes. It is the product of my hopes and an outlet for intense emotions and moments that have no words.”

Some of her work is funny, like the sloth reaching for a sausage dangling from a string. Some of her work is whimsical, like children, animals, and puppets in fairy tale lands. Some of her work captures simple beauty, like birch trees and flowers. Her new series captures her latest obsession: getting older. “Things change dramatically on the outside but on the inside, we’re still young,” she said. The series includes elderly subjects with things protruding from their heads like bunny ears and antennas with hearts or green balls at the tips.

She has shown her work at galleries and events in Chicago, in the Upper Peninsula, and in Hawaii (she lived there for a year). She and her husband moved to Spokane a year ago. “We kind of threw a dart,” she said, and she’s excited about the possibilities. She showed her jewelry designs at Artfest, and participated in Bazaar and Terrain. Recently she showed some pieces at Missing Piece Tattoo and, in February, her paintings will be featured at the Liberty Building. “Art is part of the fabric of which I am woven,” she said, “I paint with my tears and laughter and sometimes to raise questions; it’s the stirring of thought that motivates me.”

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