Melanie West was born and raised in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She grew up on a ranch near the Cerrillos Hills. Her work in both photography and filmmaking has been influenced by her large family, plenty of dancing and music, a respect and ability for work with one's hands, and the desert space around her. Her studies at Lake Forest College, north of Chicago, included English, journalism and fine art.
Axle Contemporary invited her to exhibit in Axle Indoors at Peters Projects and in Autophotography. The City of Santa Fe Arts Commission and Community Gallery selected her to participate in the group art and poetry show Odes & Offerings. She was included in the Through The Lens exhibit at The Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe and is in the award-winning book. She participated in the Contemporary Santa Fe photography show at the Santa Fe Community College and was selected for the Amici Della Galleria show at Verve Fine Arts in Santa Fe. Other exhibits include the juried group shows High and Dry at Texas Tech University, PhotoAustin VI of women photographers at IDEA gallery and Viewpoint 2005 at the Bosque Conservatory in Texas. One woman shows were at The Tybie Satin Davis Gallery in Santa Fe and at City Hall with the Austin Art in Public Places program. Additional group shows include the Women and Their Work gallery, the Eli Levin Studio, Hat Ranch Gallery, and Guadalupe Cultural Arts. Her work is in various private collections, The New Mexico Photo Archives and The Austin History Center.
She has directed her own experimental shorts and documentaries which have shown at Rural Route Festival, CinemaTexas, The Santa Fe Film Festival, SWAMP/FotoFest at The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Flicker, The Dallas Video Festival, Film Fest New Haven, Austin Cinemaker Co-Op, Lady Fest and other national and international screenings.
One of her biggest art projects was designing and building her small home. Her house and studio are off-grid solar powered and have solar hot water, rainwater catchment, greywater reuse and many simple, green elements. She recently added a tiny, handmade, adobe garage where her fully electric car can charge from the solar panels. Beauty and regeneration are a lovely combination and are crucial in these days.
A playful acknowledgment of both formalism and chance remains at the heart of all of her work.