A P.E.I. mother's moments

Summerside artist Melissa Morse presents her first solo show at the Gallery @ the Guild in Charlottetown until Jan. 10

Sally Cole scole@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on December 26, 2015

P.E.I. artist Melissa Morse holds her 16-month-old son Ivan, the model for this painting. Great Catch is one of the pieces in Melissa Morse: Drawing on Pogey: Reports from the State of Domestic Bliss, which is on view at the Gallery @ the Guild in Charlottetown until Jan. 10.


As an artist, Melissa Morse is known for her intricate pen and ink drawings.

However, since the birth of her son, Ivan, 16 months ago, her artistic style has changed.

“My work is usually dark, but these pieces are bright and happy because they express joy and adorable babies,” says the Summerside-based artist whose exhibition, Melissa Morse: Drawing on Pogey: Reports from the State of Domestic Bliss, continues until Jan. 10 at the Gallery @ the Guild in Charlottetown.

Consisting of 37 drawings and paintings, the show captures the different moments of motherhood.

Whether it’s a drawing from the early months when Ivan would stay in one place, the excitement of first steps or the feeling of isolation that often comes along with being a single mom, Morse gives a series of visual reports on her experiences.

“It can be lonely because it’s just me and him. And it can be frustrating. But mostly it’s a happy experience,” says Morse, with a broad smile.

Take “Yay, Ivan!” for instance.

“That’s Ivan learning to stand up. I also have drawings of him walking towards me and making demands like no one can leave the room without me or if I see a cherry tomato it’s mine,” says Morse with a laugh.

Great Catch is a large acrylic painting of Ivan lying in the ocean supported by a giant fish net. Eyes wide open, he’s aware of the world around him.

“When I was at school I did a lot of work with (human forms) in water. So I was attracted to the idea of putting Ivan in the water. It’s the idea of a deep wellspring. There’s so much emotion and mystery in the water,” says Morse, a graduate of OCAD University in Toronto.

There are also drawings of Ivan dressed as Dracula for his first Halloween, as well as a portrait of Morse at the supermarket.

“When you’re so busy all the time and suddenly you get the chance to go grocery shopping alone, it’s like walking through a beautiful garden. So it becomes an exotic experience.

“Everyday experiences become special when you’re not used to having time to yourself. So I was expressing that.”

P.E.I. artist Becka Viau is entusiastic about the exhibition.

“Melissa’s work makes a pretty powerful statement about the value of motherhood and of the artist in our society. By telling the stories of motherhood through a slightly dark and comedic lens, she certainly confronts the viewer with the

complexities around unpaid work and being a mother artist,” says Viau.

The biggest challenge Morse faced in creating the works was time.

“These happened mostly after (Ivan) went to sleep. He only sleeps for an hour or two at a time.”

Now that the paintings are up, Morse is pleased with what she sees.

“It feels good. I was nervous about hanging them, but seeing them together now makes me happy.

“I see the reflections of motherhood and I hope that other people will as well.”



Up close with artist Melissa Morse

Favourite book: Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams.

Favourite artist: Paula Rego.

Favourite TV shows: “Mad Men”, “Game of Thrones”.

Favourite pastime: Standup comedy.

Getting in touch: Send an email to melissamariemorse@gmail.com.