Melissa DiNino  //  @melissa_dinino

As an emerging watercolor artist, Melissa DiNino creates figurative realism pieces inspired by traditional ties to the land. Originally a range rider, she began painting during her off season in 2018, as a way to reflect on life in the rural west. The paintings that started DiNino’s career were directly inspired by her female mentors and the experiences they shared. Currently she is finishing a year-long commission to fill an 8,000-square-foot Montana home with custom artwork. During this time, DiNino was also invited to exhibit at the Virginia City Art Show and join the International Guild of Realism as a professional member. She resides in a dry, one-room cabin on a small ranch in northwest Montana where she continues to pull inspiration from rural life and her experiences in the backcountry.

“Throughout my journey, I’ve traveled the quiet, soft margins of the rural west. Having moved out to remote areas of Montana from suburban Connecticut, I discovered a place that was steeped in quiet contemplation, contradictory to most contemporary and historical constructs of the Wild West. As a range rider, I worked at the heart of small ranching communities, where I monitored cattle and tracked wolves and grizzlies by horseback through rugged terrain. I learned how the resiliency of rural communities relies on its relationships – both human and non-human – and our ability to understand them in their most authentic forms. Silence, I find, gives us the opportunity to hear and see the truth that exists around us. Many of the people who taught me how to listen — to the land, to horses, to each other — are women. So when I began painting two years ago, I turned to what I knew.

“My art is a natural extension of my life and experiences. My paintings, which are largely figurative, depict characters inspired by my connections to the communities in which I have lived. Through my art, I endlessly search for understanding and truth filtered through a feminine lens of the American West. I explore the softness found in a life that is often hard — one that is rooted in the rhythms of the landscape on which it relies — and savor the beauty and simplicity of those moments that are easily overlooked.

“Each piece usually begins with a vision for the specific composition. While taken directly from a personal experience, my figures are often obscured or turned away, creating a more universal connection for the viewer to discover in their own way. My use of negative space is a tool meant to enhance the concept of silence, giving the viewer space to analyze their own truth tied to the subject at hand. Watercolor, my chosen medium, is another tool I use that naturally allows for softness. This medium isn’t always the expected choice in the realm of realism, which provokes questions surrounding our relationships and understanding of it as well.” – Melissa DiNino