We had the good fortune of connecting with Melissa Beck and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Melissa, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
A friend once shared with me how she prefers to think of life in “seasons” versus “balance”. That really stuck with me. I think it’s more natural that our lives happen in seasons versus a consistent balance all of the time. There are many times in my life where I am not striking that work/life balance very well, but it’s always just for a season and I am at peace with this. I think most creative lifestyles happen this way. At the time my friend shared her thoughts on “seasons” with me, I was in the midst of a long battle with some illnesses and my life was far from balanced. It was a dark time and I didn’t know how long it would last. I’m grateful it did end and I’m on the other side of it now but it was very intense and I lost a lot. That season helped me realize how fragile life is and now I’m more grateful for the time and abilities I have and to use them wisely toward my goals. Sometimes the “unbalanced” or darker seasons help us become more balanced, healthier and stronger once we’ve gone through them. I now don’t procrastinate nearly as much as before and I know how to manage my time better. I used to think and analyze too much before starting a project. I think analyzing can be helpful, but in my case it was just a way of avoiding the possibility of failure. Now I don’t worry so much about that. Since I experienced life at rock bottom, other potential failures don’t hold me back as much. I started teaching art courses a few years ago and really love it. It’s a simple thing, but having a daily place and people who are depending on me to show up with content, lessons, passion and a creative mind keeps me working and leaves no time to waste making second guesses and being hesitant. Everyday I jump right into the next step of my current projects and figure things out as I’m doing it rather than make sure it’s guaranteed from the start. However, like most artists/creatives, my work can be all consuming. Our culture pushes us to work ourselves to the bone, which can be unhealthy. About a month ago I took a solo trip to the mountains just to be. It was quiet and I spent a lot of time praying, doing yoga and sipping tea. I think most people could use more “being-ness” in their schedule. For most of my life, I’ve kept a regular practice of daily prayer, meditation or journaling, but in recent years these quiet times seem to happen in seasons rather than consistently on a daily basis. I think both the hardworking and slow waiting seasons are necessary. We just need to find rhythms to engage in both.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My artwork is about “slow”. I’m interested in the mundane, those things we don’t take a second look at because they blend into the background of our lives. A large part of my practice involves coating objects in thick layers of paint. I do this in an attempt to encapsulate the ephemeral or slow down that which wants to shift and change so quickly. Life often feels as though it’s going by me on a conveyor belt, too fast to tend or savor that which is before me. I long for a pause, a lengthier time to be still. In 2019 I made these “TP (to pause)” sculptures. That was back when toilet paper was something of a rudimentary nature, overlooked and available in abundance. It’s interesting how the value of something and our perception of it can change so quickly. It reminds me of the fluidity and temporal nature of life. Hardly anything stays still or remains permanent. Along with the idea of slow is the practice of meditation. Over the past few years I’ve been compiling content for a contemplative artist book. I envision this to be a companion to the creative’s spiritual and meditative journey. Each section will be brief but carry depth through quotes, Biblical excerpts and visual art. It’s a project that I’m excited about because it’s the kind of thing I was searching for, but could never find. I’ll be launching parts of it regularly on my website & social media later this year. Currently I’m teaching a course on art in alternative spaces. This area fascinates me as I’ve done various exhibitions in houses, apartments, old factories etc. With the lockdowns causing museums and galleries to close, the way we experience art and how it is shown will change. The most obvious place for art to continue to show is online, however humans still need physical experiences. While this is a loss, it’s also new territory for exploring new ways in which public & private spaces can be venues and inspiration for new art.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Eat – Belcampo, Chosun Galbee, True Food Kitchen, Sweetgreen Drink – Tranquil Tea Lounge, SunLife Organics Check out – Grand Central Market, Bread & Salt in San Diego, Michael Heizer’s “Levitated Mass” and Chris Burden’s “Urban Light” (at LACMA)
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Currently I’m taking a course by Donald Miller at www.bmsu.com. It’s a life plan course that works with the framework of a story, so we are beginning with the end in mind by writing our own obituary! I’m doing it with my brother (@seanbeck1) and a friend (@adambagherian) which is so much better than going it alone, so shoutout to them too!