CMC Magazine: October 1998

The Story of a Digital Pioneer

by Christine Lapham

There's passion and beauty, joy and strength, color and magic in the work of Digital Artist Melanie Hope.

She starts with beads, a skill she learned as a young girl on the Tuscorara Reservation in western New York state. From there she relies on a ^ vision of what might be, what should be, what she hopes will be, which she then literally weaves into a work of art.

But that's not the end: it's only the beginning. Using ^ technology, she scans her pieces into a computer, digitizes them, manipulates them using sophisticated software, and then finally presents them at museum installations, such as the Iroquois Museum in New York State, on Web sites and in CD-ROMs.

The power of her pieces, (as I hope you will see for yourself), comes from Hope's emotional and painful struggle to reconcile the incongruencies in her own life. In her first beadworking pieces, "Family Tree of Peace," Hope traces her Native family back seven generations. According to Hope, the piece was emotionally painful to create but it helped her work through some of her anger at not being accepted by her tribe: Hope was considered non-native because her mother was German and Italian. She also struggled with the outside world's indifference to Native culture. "I changed my direction and began a healing process from the inside out. I began to understand myself in a totally new way. My identity was part of me. It is though my art that my spirit speaks out. It's a journey into my soul. A discovery of a culture I left far behind," says Hope

As she wove beads into the shape of a tree, the Iroquois symbol of peace, Hope was able to find her own beautiful peace, the delicate balance of the zeros and the ones. Like Ada Lovelace, Grace Hopper and others who came before her, Hope has taken the fabric of her life and woven it into something transcendent and timeless: She has become a digital pioneer.

Christine Lapham is a contributing editor of CMC Magazine as well as a freelance technology writer, communications consultant, and an instructor in the Communications Department of The Sage Colleges. She lives in the Capital Region of New York State.

Copyright © 1998 by Christine Lapham. All Rights Reserved.

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