The E List

An Excruciatingly Opinionated Guide to the Shoreline

May 3, 2021
Art / Fun / Melissa Barbieri

A Totem-Pole Self-Portrait with Melissa Barbieri

melissa barbieri

In the early days of 2020, local painter and friend, Melissa Barbieri, introduced us to a genius project she had recently completed. When asked to do a self-portrait, she drafted a totem pole on a large sheet of cardboard using brightly colored paints commemorating her history and life events. Her presentation was so compelling, we shared it around our then lively office space and the team was taken by its vibrancy, simplicity, and honesty. We all agreed that a workshop taught by Melissa in our space, (our first IN REAL LIFE event in a series of many we’d hoped to come) would be the perfect community-building class, boosting curiosity and playfulness in all its participants, artists or not. We don’t need to explain what happened next. But Melissa’s Totem Pole Project stuck in our minds, so we recently visited her gorgeous studio for a tutorial on this project.

Here’s Melissa showing us how it’s done.

We look forward to IRL workshops and events in the future but for now, it’s a fun idea to start planning your totem or whip one up on your own.

Melissa is a classically-trained painter whose “work is fueled by her life-long fascination of both the vast romantic desert of the West with the dark power of the deep sea; with comparative mythology, symbolism and archetypes and how all these are interwoven in both ancient, classical and modern culture and reside in our psyche today”. 

Learn more about Melissa here:

A few more scenes from her studio below:


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