Melissa Auf der Maur’s Visual Arts Influences

Melissa Aur der Maur and an alien camera device
in the video for “Meet Me On The Dark Side”.

Melissa Auf der Maur is best known for her music and bass playing, but the multifaceted artist is also a longtime photographer who has had her work published in Nylon, Bust, Mastermind, and American Photo, among other media outlets, and been exhibited by National Geographic, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and Sotheby’s in New York City. Given that she studied photography in college, it seems natural that she would continue expressing herself visually and outside of the boundaries of music. In particular, she has been intrigued by female self-portraits. As with any artist, there are people who have exerted an influence on her work, and A.D.D. asked her who they were.

The cover of the book Francesca Woodman, edited by Corey Keller.

Who are your three top visual arts influences?
My favorite is a woman I discovered in university. At the time she was fairly unknown, but since then she has become very well known, even though she was dead before I even went to photography school. She’s a very unique photographer called Francesca Woodman. It’s not that her photography is so unique, it’s that her situation was really unique. She was incredibly prolific and committed suicide at 23, then after her death her family kind of built her career. There are fine art books of her work. She has exhibits all over the world, but at the time there was a photography teacher who had one catalog of one small show that she had seen in the ’80s. She gave me her catalog, and I loved it. Her career has blown up in the last 20 years, which is a very strange situation. So it’s a lot of that self portraiture kind of thing, female introspection through photography but from a woman who started at age 14 and then ended at 22. It’s this amazing body of work, and her name is Francesca Woodman. [But ultimately] Pre-Raphaelite painters and David Lynch as a filmmaker influence me more than other photographers.

David Lynch: A major inspiration
for Melissa Auf der Maur.
(Photo credit: Gene Carl Feldman.)

Why do you like David Lynch so much?
When I was a teenager I discovered Twin Peaks, and it had a flavor of what my dreams were. Most of my influences come from my dreams if not art history or other art forms. It felt like the same dreams that I had been having that were pushing me towards taking photos or making music [were echoed in his work]. He just taps into the pure subconscious. He’s the best of all. He lives and breathes his strange world, whether it’s his weather reports on the Internet or his audio CDs like Diving For The Big Fish, which is based on [Transcendental] Meditation, but it’s [about] ways to find creative ideas in your subconscious.

Why have Pre-Raphaelite painters been a big influence on you?
Just like with music — when you find the first few things that grab you in your teen years and stick with you forever as your most important influences — a similar thing happened when I went to art school. I just found a slew of things that really, really influenced me [including the Pre-Raphaelites], and that has never budged since then. When I put the fantasy film Out Of Our Minds within that Pre-Raphaelite exhibit [in Montreal], I had to think about it a lot, and being more grown-up and not just an 18-year-old and instinctively liking it, I understood more. A lot of it is based more on King Arthur-era tales of magical women isolated in a tower that can only look at the world through a mirror, or when she looks at the world directly she is sent down a river to sing to her death. Just the most beautiful stories captured by the most incredible realist paintings. It was an extension of the Renaissance painters as far as beautiful skin tones and skies, but it was depicting these very elaborate stories of very strange happenings with women. It was kind of New Agey at the time. It was considered really superstitious and weird, which I like…so magic women and incredible painting skills. J.W. Waterhouse is the biggest one from England — he’s my favorite Pre-Raphaelite painter.

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