In Melanie Christine Warner's new series of stone lithograph prints, you often see illustrations of hybrid creatures. Take, for example, "Merbear," a cross between a bear and a mermaid. There's also a piece entitled "Hermit Calf." The technical skill is such that her creatures seem anatomically correct even though they're imaginary.
In this exhibit entitled New Work, showing in the Indianapolis Art Center until Sept. 27, Warner uses these hybrid creatures to show a "liminal state" that echoes her personal process of transformation.
"A lot of my pieces are of animals," she says. "You can see parts of them as one animal and then other parts of them are another animal. And I think that transition from one state in your life to another state in your life can happen so quickly sometimes that it's hard to recognize the changing process until afterwards. And so that's what I'm focused on is that changing process during the moment."
Not all of these creatures in Warner's work are easily recognizable combinations of specific creatures. One print, entitled "Growth with Paws" portrays sort of a squid-like head combined with something that looks like a horse-saddle. The whole cocoon-like, amorphous thing appears to be wrapped in gauze while suspended in air — as if in motion — and casting a shadow. It relates to a very specific time in her life.
"During the whole period I was in grad school, I was in an in-between stage," Warner says. "Going to something new but I didn't know what it looked like."
Warner's particular artistic process, stone lithography, is a traditional way of printmaking that starts out with a slab of limestone.
"You grind it down really fine so it creates a texture," she says. "And then I take a wax or an oil pencil and then I draw right on top of that... After I finish it, I take a mixture of a Gum arabic and nitric acid and I etch that image into the stone. So it slightly raises that image just enough — you can't hardly see it with the eye — then you roll it with ink. Then you're able to do an edition with that."
Warner's formidable artistic skills are much in demand. Not long after graduating in 2011 with an M.F.A in Printmaking from Herron School of Art & Design, she was hired on as an assistant by designer and printmaker Walter Knabe, whose studio is located in Carmel's Indiana Design Center. She also works as an Assistant Director in Garvey|Simon Art Access, which is right across the street from Knabe's studio.
Warner doesn't have a lot of free time these days. "I'm in Carmel six days a week also teaching two days out of the week," she says. "The thing about it, though, is that I don't mind because I feel like I'm gaining knowledge of being an artist and working in the art field in the real world. And really trying to understand how you can make art as business and not be living up to the cliche of being a starving artist."
And, assuming she can fit the time to create more original art into her demanding schedule, you can probably expect more work from Warner sometime soon.
The [Liminal States] series is finished," she says. "But I feel like from that series, I would like to go onto another series focusing on the solace that you feel sometimes within change. Change can be really painful or frustrating or really exciting too. There's a solace within that."
See Warner's work at the IAC Open House on Sept. 9, starting at 6 p.m. Through Sept. 27 at the Ruth Lilly Library in the Indianapolis Art Center, 820 E. 67th St.