By SHEA STANFIELD
Arizona painter, Merrill Mahaffey, wrote in his book “Monumental Landscapes” that “the canvas begins as just a painted surface covered with color, color becomes the metaphor for feelings.”
Today, local Arizona native Melissa Paxton, and former student of Merrill Mahaffey, has taken color on canvas and brilliance in glass to the level of intimate spectacular.
Born in Flagstaff, Melissa’s family moved to the New River area when she was just five, taking up residency at Wrangler’s Roost Guest Ranch. In the three years they ran the Ranch young Melissa learned to love the high desert north of Phoenix.
She roamed freely collecting interesting looking rocks and bits of finely painted ancient clay pottery. When Melissa was in second grade the family moved into the Maryvale neighborhood of Phoenix.
“Quite frankly it was hard to get use to. I loved being among the farms and fields, but like all Arizona cities growth began to cover everything and eventually the rows of citrus and roses were replaced with urban sprawl,” she said about her childhood move.
Melissa, a coming of age young artist, spent hours drawing and painting portraits of the farm workers, laboring in the produce fields of the West Valley. Once she completed high school at Phoenix Christian she turned to higher education at Phoenix College.
It was at Phoenix College Melissa met her mentor and painting instructor Merrill Mahaffey. He encouraged her to attend the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif., to expand her world and her studies.
She followed his advice and freely expresses, “Merrill Mahaffey, was a far better painting instructor than any of the individuals I ran into during my time in California.”
During those college years Melissa focused on design, painting and drawing, but as she began to work with glass and receive commissions for her glass pieces she soon discovered an avenue to pay for art school.
It wasn’t long before her reputation as a glass artist began to grow and she settled into the medium full time. At about this time Melissa was receiving commissions from a horse agent in Oklahoma for racehorse portraits in glass, enough in fact, that she moved to Oklahoma and opened Glass Gallery with a partner.
As Melissa’s reputation as a glass artist grew she moved to Texas in 1983 where she opened Signature Glass Limited in the growing design district of Dallas.
In 1987, Melissa, once again was ready to relocate as the economy took one of its many downward turns, this time involving the oil and gas industry. She saw this as an opportunity to return home to Arizona, and Carefree was her destination of choice.
“I had a large project to do for interior designer June Gilliam, whom I had met in Dallas, this job supported my move back to the Desert Foothills,” she said.
Once the commission was completed Melissa was happy to stay wanting to be close to her sisters and Mom who were living in west Phoenix.
She moved into a small building behind Josie’s Flower Shop on Cave Creek Road and opened her next glass studio, Coyote Glass Design. Melissa describes it as Heaven.
Today, with over 40 years in the glass business Melissa is looking forward to “retiring from the custom glass business and focusing on fine art painting and smaller glass art, as well as, spending more time with my Arizona family.”
Melissa enjoys a national and international following in her client base. She continues gallery representation with Habitat Gallery in Palm Beach, Florida (habatatgalleries.com), Sofi’s in Salado, Texas (salado.com) and Visions Gallery in Sedona, Arizona (visionsfineart.com). She participates in a number of shows each year and enjoys sharing her work on her website glassriverdesign.com and Facebook.
Meet Melissa Paxton during the Hidden In The Hills Artist Studio and Tour the last two weekends of November 2018. For more information on the self-guided tour visit sonoranartsleague.org.
Contact Arts Columnist Shea Stanfield on firstname.lastname@example.org.