Sitting under the stars, telling stories to each other on the Murray River.
Melissa Bell is a proud Gunditjmara and Yorta Yorta woman making art deeply connected to her Country and culture. ‘Making art makes me feel connected to my land. To be an Aboriginal female artist, just to put down a beautiful picture from my Country - knowing I can put that down on a canvas and express my Country to other people is amazing.’ Melissa told us that she mainly paints where she comes from, her totem and her Country because she feels connected to Country and culture when she does. She represents this in bright colours and striking patterns, such as diamonds to represent fishing spots and dots to represent waterholes.
‘I like to paint water. I grew up around the Murray and it inspires me a lot. I love doing my turtles – the Yorta Yorta turtle, my totem is my favourite to paint.’ In the future Melissa is looking forward to painting more of her Gunditijmara culture as well as her Yorta Yorta ones. Art runs in the Bell family and Melissa sees her uncle and great great grandfather as big inspirations to her own art. She learnt a lot about art from her family and because of this became a trained visual artist with a completed Diploma 1 and 2 in Visual Arts from RMIT.
Because of this she has always had art in her, as she says, ‘Art has always been a part of me’. Even though art has always been a part of her life, Melissa thinks becoming an artist with The Torch changed her as a person. Being a part of The Torch has allowed Melissa to get her artwork out into the world. She thinks this has really saved her life as it has kept her out of jail and connected with other people.