SECCA's local-centric exhibition series continues with new works by Barbara Mellin.

On View September 16, 2021 – October 17, 2021 | Preview Gallery

SECCA's Southern Idiom exhibition series continues with A Joyous Phenomenon, featuring new works by Barbara Mellin. An opening reception for the exhibition will be held from 5–8pm on Thursday, September 16. Admission is free, with a suggested $10 donation.


These etchings are a celebration of life, customs, differences and similarities. The focus of the series is the global appeal of dance. Dance is a joyous phenomenon that is incorporated into almost every culture. You don't have to understand the language to appreciate the music, movements, rhythms and ritual of dance.

Since I created SouthHouse Studio, a printmaking space, in my Winston Salem home several years ago, I have tried to use non-toxic and environmentally friendly materials. This has often meant reinterpreting traditional techniques, and seeking out modern materials. This exhibition is a result of that effort. At the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, I had been experimenting with non-acid etching, using a copper sulfate/salt solution on aluminum plates. As the pandemic continued, I expanded the project and add dry point etchings. I welcomed the time in my studio to focus of two of my loves: world cultures and research.

I have loved the richness of ethnic, folk cultures and customs since I was a child. As an adult, I shared that appreciation in my internationally published, syndicated column called "ArtSmart Travels," which celebrated the diverse, wonderful cultures of the world, based on my personal travels to more than 24 countries on five continents. The majority of the images included here are from personal references; others are from hours of enjoyable research.

I have focused on traditional dances from arounds the world, sometimes crossing political boundaries. The figures are each dressed in ethnic clothing, expressing the uniqueness of their heritage within the universal format of dance.

Many of these dances are on the UNESCO Cultural Heritage list, and with this body of work, I feel I am helping to showcase and preserve these traditions.

For each etching, I have tried to capture the authenticity of the dance poses, the unique beauty of the clothing, and the joy of the occasion, whether it be a dance of celebration, a gathering of community, or a rite of passage. The image of each dancer is also shown within decorative borders that may further reinforce their cultural uniqueness or those of neighboring peoples. Some examples: The female West African dancer wears traditional clothing and headgear from Nigeria, and she is boarded by patterns of Kente cloth, the traditional textile from Ghana (also in West Africa) that is woven in thin, colorful strips. I used a Kente cloth strip given to me as a "Thank You" from one of my college students from Ghana for inspiration. The Cambodian dancer is based on a performance of tradition dances I attended in Siam Reap, Cambodia, when I traveled to southeast Asia to visit Angkor Wat. The Balinese dancer is modeled on performances by Gamelan Dharma Swara, one the leading Balinese music and dance troupes in the US, to which my son and daughter-in-law both belong. The Greek outfit is like those I viewed in Athens, and the Tyrolean Schuhplattler (shoe-slap dancer) in traditional Lederhosen is based on dancers I saw in Austria. I watched a Whirling Dervish performance in Egypt, a Tang Dynasty Dance show in China, Inca dance in Peru, and a Folk Dance production in Budapest, Hungarian. In all, the dancers represented are from Europe, Asia, Africa, South America, and North America. 

About Southern Idiom

SECCA's Southern Idiom exhibition series launched in 2017 as a platform for elevating and celebrating the work of Winston-Salem artists. In contrast to many exhibitions at SECCA, works on view in Southern Idiom are available for purchase. Barbara Mellin's exhibition marks the 23rd installment of the series, whose alumni artists include Sharon Hardin, Terri Dowell-Dennis, Ashley Johnson, Frank Campion, Mona Wu, Owens Daniels, Jessica Singerman, Leo Rucker, Kevin Calhoun, Paul Travis Phillips, Laura Lashley, Sam "The Dot Man" McMillan, and others.