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About Melissa

Howard County

Melissa Penley Cormier's picture
Melissa Penley Cormier lives in Ellicott City, Maryland and creates images, installations, and sculptures.  She earned a MFA at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) in the InterMedia and Digital Arts and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Radford University in oil painting. Her current work centers around research, process, and time. 

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.


Iterations is a study in mark making and an inquiry into early photographic processes as a meditative process.

I was researching the beginnings of photography and found myself making slow, spiral marks onto paper with a brush and cyanotype solution. The drawings were placed in the studio window and then dipped in water. The resulting blue is from a combination of my mark, enough sunlight, and water. The lenses sometimes amplify and sometimes obscure the ultraviolet light needed to change the chemicals while leaving a shadow of a geometric circle on the page as a counterpoint to the handmade marks.

Many days in the studio produced many images, each one different although the same process was used. The cyanotypes were then used as source material for work in the darkroom. Using light and traditional darkroom techniques, contact photographs were made of the drawings.

The project was a way to focus on creative spaces and ritualistic creative action as meditative actions.

  • cyanotype in water

    The resulting brilliant blue pigments are a result of the reaction between the ammonium iron(III) citrate and potassium ferricyanide mixture, sunlight and water.
  • silver gelatin contact prints

    The drawings were then used to make contact-printed black & white images in a traditional darkroom.
  • studio space

    The cyanotypes were left on the walls of the studios to dry. They were also scanned and reprinted (on left wall). Large paper was also used to cover the floor of the studio and, using a broom as a brush, a large spiral was drawn and left in the studio to interact with the light from the one window. It was washed outside in the rain and then brought back inside and displayed near the window.
  • 360 image of studio

    The large cyanotype can be seen on the right-side of this photograph, with some of the drawings hanging on the wall and on the work table.


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.

Postcards from the World's Fair

The images digital images taken from 8mm film footage shot by my great uncle in 1964 at the Word’s Fair.

The first four postcards focus on the human form, contemplate the gaze, and our relationship to American myths. The later six images are taken at the transitional moments of film where the camera stopped recording, then started again, overlapping two images of import and creating a happenstance juxtaposition that might otherwise be lost if it were not frozen by a digital medium. These post cards will be sent to a chosen few with whom I want to share, not the experience of being at the World’s Fair in 1964, because that is impossible, but the experience of viewing film captured by a close family member and how I experienced that imagery. Choosing to digitally capture these moments which were recorded in an analog medium and then reproduce them again in an analog form (while also placing digital simulacra as “proof”) is a way to mimic the time capsule’s way of obscuring objects with the intent on having them excavated at a later date.

The postcards were meant to be a quick way to share a moment in a far off land with someone who was left behind. Instead, these postcards are slower to arrive and be shared by comparison today to digital media, though their physical presence signifies an event or importance that the digital means seems to lack. The postcards serve as a promise as well as a denial of time travel. Please look into the Westinghouse Time Capsules for more information:

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Melissa 's Curated Collection

This artist has not yet created a curated collection.