Melissa Zarem


Melissa Zarem is an abstract painter and printmaker. Her work playfully combines expressive gesture, layered texture and graphic formal elements. Each piece is built in layers that allow viewers to infer the history of its making. This process invites spontaneity and produces a rich surface that parallels the natural world; a world where growth is attained through time, energy and material.


Melissa Zarem grew up in New York City where she logged many hours scouring museums. After getting her BFA at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, Melissa returned to Brooklyn where she started a career as an artist in residence with the Henry Street Settlement House’s Abrons Arts Center. Between 1992 and 1998 her art was featured in a number of shows at the Abrons Arts Center, as well as in galleries in Brooklyn, including Cold Fish (1995), The Montauk House (1996), and Henry 125 (1997).  After a hiatus to raise young children, Melissa returned to Ithaca with her family.

Relocating provided her with the necessary space and time to redouble her productivity. In 2011 Melissa was awarded a position in the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) Mark ’11 professional development program. Shortly thereafter she had solo shows at The Corners Gallery (2011), Community Arts Partnership’s ArtSpace (2011), both in Ithaca, NY, and a third at Exhibit A Gallery in Corning, NY (2013), where she is currently a stable artist. She has been a featured artist at the Windsor Whip Works Gallery and Art Center (2012) and one of three artists represented in First Person, Twice Removed at Handwerker Gallery at Ithaca College (2013).

Upon inclusion in the Made in NY 2014 show at the Schweinfurth Memorial Art Center, Melissa’s painting received a jurors’ choice award, while contemporaneously, newer work was being debuted at Aqua Art Miami. In 2015 her art was exhibited at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University and acquired for their permanent collection.

In 2016 Melissa had a solo show, Spring Loaded at eye gallery in Ithaca, NY for which the gallery published a book of her black and white drawings under the same title. Shortly thereafter she completed a fellowship awarded by the Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts.  At Saltonstall, with financial help provided by a grant from the Community Arts Partnership of Tompkins County, Melissa created much of the work for her 2017 solo show, Mapping the Tantrum, at Exhibit A.