The Artist Formerly Known As: Melissa Purdy

Let’s start off by talking about your film FireBrand. It was part of an internship, right?

BiGLATA gives two internships every summer to applicants who want to do something in activism, something that helps foster a healthy environment for BiGLT people to work in.

You were looking to do firefighting yourself?

I was interested in it. It’s like police work; they are a very male dominated and homophobic society, so I became interested in doing something about that. What resulted was finding a way to do an activist video on firefighting instead of doing the work. I am an art studio major and took video the previous semester with Liza Johnson and really liked it. . .BiGLATA really liked my idea so I got some money and a car and went out West on the road interviewing crews and individuals who had been wildlife firefighters.

I started in Larmy and went all the way to Pueblo, Colorado and then up through Colorado to the pike region and then to Idaho and up to Seattle. On the way home I ran in to a really big fire in Wyoming, so that’s where the firefighters come from. I came home and started doing the editing which is five times the amount of work that people think that it is.

How do you think that it turned out?

I think that it turned out really well . . . I wanted to make a positive piece, I didn’t want to focus on what was negative about it. I wanted to focus on what could change; what was good. Really get some positive effects out of it.

I think that people are starting to understand that more and more today women and feminine men or gay men or gay women can be as capable of doing any of this work as anybody else. I think that people, even at Williams, didn’t even think that women could be firefighters. Most people at Williams are not even aware of how different culture in the western United States is versus our little campus here. It was important for them to see how different the mindset and mentality are out there.

So you showed it here on campus; are you showing it anywhere else?

I plan on showing it again because we had a little audiovisual glitch. The showing will probably be in conjunction with the Feminist Alliance because they were really interested in it. I am also planning on sending it to a lot of the crews. I don’t know if it will get shown at any of the crews I didn’t go to because they didn’t know me, but I have a feeling that it would actually have some positive effect on the crews that I did interview: they knew me and can see my work now. Hopefully, they’ll respect that. . .It was an incredible experience, and I am very appreciative.

So what else are you working on now? Are you doing video stuff?

Yea I am taking a tutorial about how art intersects with different media and how artists use different media to work with their ideas. . .My main focus is in video, but I am working more experimentally. Hopefully, I will have an exhibition in the fall because I am really excited about this one piece I am working on.

It’s kind of a piece by chance. I changed time in the video, and I wanted to make an experience in which the viewers would be able to get into a place where they could be cognizant of what’s happening and aware of what’s around them but at the same time be able to let their minds flow, kind of meditate and go to places where they need to go while they are watching it.

I am also taking collage; it’s a good course. Definitely more hands on in terms of working with glue as opposed to working on a computer. . .I am glad to have some time away from the video. It’s easier to get work done when you don’t have to sit in the same place for 12 hours.

You are also an athlete, too, right?

I am a keeper for the soccer team. It gives me something to force me to manage my time. In essence, it’s not that difficult if you are willing to stay up a little later. I have this idea that when you exercise, the adrenaline makes your mind more sound.

What about after college? Do you see yourself doing video work or artistic stuff?

I have been thinking about that a lot especially since graduate schools are requiring their applications. . .The one I am heavily focused on now is RPI where they have a wonderful electronic arts program. It would include a lot of digital work which I started here but would like to get more focused in.

Next semester, you are doing sculpture?

I am doing a senior tutorial in sculpture; it’s usually a thesis class but I decided not to do a thesis and just to work on independent projects. . .I don’t mind working on one project and being really focused. It’s just the idea of doing it so I have honors. I am sure that’s not what anyone is thinking but it seemed to me to be a little less than I needed.

I have met a lot of cool people here and a lot of interesting people who I kind of wish I could put in a room and work with for a while. . .Now that it seems like I am graduating tomorrow, I am worried that I am going to lose all my connections. I hope that we stay connected, and that all these people that I am interested in working with in the future continue to work together.