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Work Samples

pawpaw blossoms

macro photograph of two pawpaw flowers on a single tree stem
Flowers of the pawpaw tree.


About Melissa

Howard County

Melissa Penley Cormier's picture
Melissa Penley Cormier lives in Ellicott City, Maryland, and creates photographic images, installations, and sculptures.  She earned an MFA at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) in InterMedia and Digital Arts and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Radford University, Virginia. Her current work centers around archiving, collection, and exploring processes. 

Flora Mnemonica

The Flora Mnemonica series is an ongoing personal catalog of plant specimens as a way to think about friends and family during this time of social separation. Most of the plants are found in the artist’s garden or on walks through nearby Patapsco Park and are sampled specifically because they are linked to a memory or story from a close family member or friend. Many times, the plants themselves were given as starts or seeds from friends’ gardens. Originally intended to be shared via social media, they have become invitations for others to talk about personal memories or associations with particular plants and flowers while the images themselves offer a moment to consider the plants themselves in greater detail.

In 2022, images from this series were selected by Lanesville Press LLC, Lanesville NY for a limited run of handmade mezzotint books printed by Gary Kachadourian.

More info at


This ongoing photography documentaion project is comprised of hundereds of images taken throughout the pandemic of items that I’ve held in my hands. Collected almost accidentally, I often use my cellphone as a way of visual note-taking. Although never meant to be viewed by anyone but me, while archiving and organizing these images, the importance of what I could and could not touch during the pandemic becames clearer and heavier while seeing these images gathered together. During this time I have also become, as we all have, much more aware and wary of my own hands and what they come into contact with throughout the day. One hand becomes part of and in conversation with the subject, holding a found object, while the other holds a cell phone camera and creates an ongoing archive. More images and info at


This work began as a way to explore a deadstock medium (Polaroid Type 55) that was given to me. The long expired film is unpredictable and fairly fragile, but with a bit of luck, an image is formed. Needing a subject to test shots on, I decided to make portraits of the two aloe plants that have been in the studio space that I share for over 20 years. This has evolved into making portraits of items representing the chance successes and failures of tending to gardens and house plants. Some of these are mine, and some are from other artists who also have a tenative and tender relationship to plants. The series is ongoing and in collaboration with Brick Hill Plant Lab of Baltimore.

Catalog of Nests

Many types of hornets and wasps create nests from chewing and forming paper pulp from wood and other plant matter in their immediate surroundings. I have been collecting these found abandoned nests since childhood, with friends gifting me some that they've found, but only recently have turned to them to document their variations. Each one, even of the same species is different in construction and patterning, even while still following recognizably similar structures. While most often these objects are avoided and destroyed, photographing them allows viewers the safety and comfort of observing these found sculptures more closely.

Fret & Focus

Fret & Focus, is a current and ongoing project that attempts to visualize and research daily concerns and worries using quasi-scientific means of collection and presentation. Microscope slides are created from physical aspects associated with the subjects of worry.  They question and hope to utilize sight as a means of accessing knowledge and understanding. 

Then the slides are archived and photographed. In the studio, the collected slides are inserted into various (often hand-made or rudimentary) viewing devices, then projected, magnified, traced, and scanned. The cobbled-together projectors help to enlarge and explore hidden details of collected specimens.

The specimens are collected, one each day, for a full year. One worry representing one day. Some worries may be similar or linked, but  the slides are singular and unique.  Each one is a specific marker of time, a specific data point.


Horizon began while archiving and digitizing family 8mm movies. Many of the films were made on vacations to the beach and I became enamored by the ocean and sky which seemed at times to be the real focus of the recordings.

Digitally stitching the frames of ocean and sky to create a panorama allowed me to re-imagine what it might be like to look out at the same scene.

After transferring the image directly onto the wall at eye level, the horizon line was extended by hand using a mixture of powdered blue chalk and water to incorporate the entire space.

If touched, the chalk would fall from the wall or come off onto the participant’s hand. Visitors were encouraged to touch the line, image, and walls.

As parts of the line and image was damaged, it was repaired with the same chalk mixture until deinstallation, when it was removed with water.

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Melissa 's Curated Collection

This artist has not yet created a curated collection.