Melissa Bonin was born and reared in New Iberia, Louisiana. The artist began drawing as soon as she was able to hold a tool in her hand. Her father was a butcher and he gave Melissa her first lessons in anatomy, and at age nine she took an active interest in painting.

At ten Melissa was inspired to take a crocheting class because she loved the colors of the threads and working with her hands. Within a year the aspiring artist was designing crocheted coats and evening gowns for women. Subsequently, Melissa was invited to appear on a television program to promote her unique fashions.

In tenth grade she came under the tutelage of writer James Edmunds who was closely associated with the contemporary New York City art scene. He introduced her to the world outside South Louisiana and encouraged Melissa to pursue her artistic endeavors.

At sixteen she attended the The University of Southwestern Louisiana and studied art with Elemore Morgan, Jr., Herman Mhire, Tom Secrest, and William Moreland. She received a BFA cum laude in painting in 1981. Melissa then traveled to Europe to study fine art and the French language in Angers, Paris, and Southern France. Upon returning to the United States she received a BA cum laude and continued her fine art education at Bennington College and the Massachusetts School of Fine Art.

Along with her studies in art, Melissa studied ballet and performed occasionally with the New Orleans Ballet. Some of her master class dance instructors include members of Erick Hawkins, Polobolus, and the Bolshoi.

In 1994 Melissa opened the Left Bank Gallery in New Iberia along with artists Paul Schexnayder and Kathy Baus. Here, she permanently housed her works of art and also performed live autobiographical one-woman vignettes. Through her affiliation with the gallery she pursued various grant opportunities including programs that combined poetry, performance, and innovative art exhibitions.

Since 1994, the artist has received numerous grants and awards for her artwork and performance projects. Melissa recently completed a 48-foot public mural for the city of New Iberia and produced a film entitled Acadie: Voices and Visions. She has also participated in juried and invitational art exhibits including the Bunk Johnson Festival, Pelicans on Parade, and Palettes and Paté. In 1999, she created a talent program for exceptionally talented children in Iberia Parish along with master teacher of the gifted Judy Huckabay.

Melissa exhibits her paintings throughout the United States and abroad. Her work is in private art collections and has been published in Southern Accents, Louisiana Life, and Artworks magazines. She currently mentors children with exceptional talent in Iberia Parish, where she maintains a professional art studio and gallery.

Artist's Statement

There is a certain time of day, just before the darkness, when the human eye has difficulty seeing and imagination steps in to fill the gaps. At this time, color is at its richest and trees look like dark spirits waiting and walking in the distant cane fields. My work is a personal, poetic, and symbolic interpretation of my native landscape. It possessses a unique language of color, light, and spatial relationships. 

About Painting Technique 

In an effort to capture the essence of the Bayou Teche flowing through my birthplace and home, I use oil and various media in a wet-on-wet application. My paintings are done à la prima, however sometimes I paint them fifty times, wiping them completely off between paintings in order to arrive at the desired immediate freshness. The painting is done with a sense of urgency. The effect resonates a shimmering calm surface above, while holding a powerful evocative energy below.

About My Work
I want my artwork to exist in its own place in time. Therefore, my themes have a timeless quality. My images and palette are a delicate balance between my love of old world master painters' work and my joy and excitement about modern painting. I like the tension these two elements create together on the same canvas. In my surfaces and applications of paint I strive for the same feeling I get when I approach ancient chinese pottery with their beautiful colors, similicity, and glazes. I love the simple beauty and power of the combination of the elements of water in the glazes, earth in the support, and fire as the transformer.