A "Master Manifester" Makes Her Mark
Melinda Camille spent years hoping to exhibit her work in a historic Brooklyn factory turned luxury loft. Now, she’s realizing the apartment plays a different role in her work—framing how she thinks about her own living space.
Camille is a visual artist, singer, and songwriter based in Bridgeport, where she works and lives in Read’s Artspace. A self-described “light-hearted young lady,” she is preparing for a new exhibition this September at her own apartment, parlaying what she has learned into a show at her own home. The building, a former department store, is now subsidized housing specifically for artists.
But the way she got there wasn’t by practicing art. Not initially. It was through her music.
From the time she was young, Camille wanted to be a singer. She was shy to perform publicly at first, warming to the mic—and the public eye—only in her teenage years and early twenties. While living in New York in 2010, she recorded and published an album titled Pure Imagination. She envisioned it as a springboard to a bigger singing career.
But it was hard for her—more than she’d ever imagined it would be. While trying to build a music career in New York, Camille worked as a waitress to make ends meet, struggling to pay rent and have enough left over for food and savings each month. The lifestyle led her to become a contestant on American Idol in 2012, hoping that it would lead to bigger things.
“I knew that the life I was experiencing was not aligned with my deepest desires and I was looking for a way to survive in the 'real' world without sacrificing my happiness,” she recalled in a recent interview with The Arts Paper. “Writing the songs for Pure Imagination allowed me to clarify some of the challenging emotions I was feeling … coming to terms with the fact that I would not settle for the 'average' life.”
On American Idol, she said she impressed the judges at first, filling the room with an open personality and pitch-perfect rendition of Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good.” The song carried her to Hollywood, where she thought adventure awaited.
But she began to struggle with the pressures of the show, and a constant sense that she was in the public eye. During a “group week,” she said she felt as if her light was dimming: her work with other contestants threw her into a time crunch, and her confidence levels were low. When it was time to perform for the judges, they took notice of it. She was sent home, where she said she remained “crushed.”
"Hearing criticism and judgements took its toll on me,” she said. “Instead of being chest open and ready for the world, I started to retreat and question everything. That affected my ability to sing and be 100 percent who I was.”
Camille said she was “lost for a bit,” unsure of who she was without her musical identity. Until the year 2013, when she started turning her focus towards visual art. She started a series of collages—collages she still makes today—“based upon who I am becoming and my identity as a human being.”
Now, she said, she doesn’t have to sacrifice her joy for making a living. While she still sings—mostly covers, for paid gigs—she has focused most of her attention to her art. She regularly calls herself a "Master Manifester," a term that originated just from her doodling in her journals.
“When I was young, I imagined … that I’d be on tour and selling millions of albums,” she said “But right now, I’m basically just singing other people’s songs to make a living. It’s not as big as I thought it would be, and that’s okay, I’m okay with that.”
In 2017, Camille moved into Read's Artspace, a former department store with 61 units of affordable artists' housing. She said it has created the creative community that she wanted, in part because she can afford to live and work there.
“For a while I was by myself and isolated, but stepping out of that and now being around creatives is inspiring and motivational,” she said.
Many of Camille’s works are colorful, bright, and busy. They include multiple layers of brightly colored paint, gold glitter, black tape, personal journal entries, drawings, doodles, inspiring magazine and newspaper clippings. There are often three-dimensional objects layered on top such as, twine, barbed wire, faux moss, leaves, flowers, glass, and jewelry.
She said that she is inspired by the idea of “heaven on earth,” and is influenced by places including New York City, Venice beach, and the concrete jungle of the modern day wild urban living.
She added that her bigger pieces can take up to years to create, because “it’s a progression of my life and what I am becoming.” Her smaller pieces take only a few weeks or months.
As a resident at Artspace, she has established a daily practice. Each day she journals, writing affirmations such as “I am a successful artist” or “I am blessed beyond measure.” She doodles, snips up magazines, and newspapers. She also goes on frequent walks, using the time not only to collect color ideas and combinations to use, words, magazines, and newspapers, but to connect with her inside voice and drown outside noise.
“I’m starting to learn and put value on her inner wisdom instead of looking outside of myself for help,” she said. “If I ever get artists block, that means I’m fighting something and it’s not meant to be right now.”
“There are times to sit and receive everything where I can sit and chill then there are times to be working, gluing and making art” she said. “[I’m] following my inner guidance system and not fighting it.”
All of her devotion to her art is finally paying off—Camille is planning on having an art gallery showcase at Artspace on Sept. 16 of this year. It’s a shift from the location she originally envisioned—the Dumbo Clock Condo in Brooklyn—but one that she said she’s found peace with.
Camille first discovered the condos while living in Brooklyn and making her first album in 2010. As the subway made its way through Brooklyn, she saw a sign:“Live, Work, Play ... Dumbo.” She fell in love with the building.
“The billboard spoke to me in that I realized I wanted to live a life in which my work was aligned with the energy of play,” she said. “We deserve to love our jobs and careers, waking up each day with a peaceful happiness.”
A day later, she found out that the building’s penthouse, with a view straight through an old clock, was the world's most expensive condo on the market, then listed at $25 million.
“That is where the obsession for a 'better' life began,” she said.
She became infatuated with the idea of one day living there. So she kept an eye on it, and took note when the building’s penthouse condo was sold to art dealer and gallery owner Lio Malca for $15 million a year later.
By then, she’d been including the building in collages, alongside the Brooklyn Bridge and other iconic images from New York City. When she found out the condo was sold to Malca, she began trying to reach him, emailing his gallery assistant for 33 consecutive days at 3:33 p.m. with the story of her work, and interest in exhibiting in the apartment.
She never gave up hope on hearing back. And one day, she did. It wasn’t the news she’d hoped for—gallery representatives said that they weren’t interested in working with her, and asked her not to contact them again (reached earlier this summer, the gallery confirmed this account). She said she found goodness in the rejection—that “I thank [the gallery] for adding a beautiful layer to my story."
The rejection from the Lio Malca gallery didn’t stop her. She still dreams of having an art show and says now it will be hosted at her apartment in the Artspace and will be called, A Day in the Life of a Manifester: I Am God.
“Just recently, I began to feel as though the obsession [with the Dumbo Clock Condo] was blocking the gorgeous view of my present blessings,” she said. “ That's when I quickly decided to drop and let go of the clock condo and to perform the reality installation here in my studio.”
“I mean, what’s more real than opening up my personal space and inviting my community to be apart of my world for a day?” she added.
The gallery showcase will be a performance art piece and multimedia installation, incorporating her own music, her own decorated furniture and colleges, and african dance. In addition, she said she hopes to highlight all of these, and the importance of community gathering and meaningful conversation she will have among guests.
Looking forward, Camille said she wants joy, peace, love and money—while remaining true to herself. She added that she wants to be the richest artist in the world. For her, that is a “multi-trillionaire,” a phrase that is written over and over again in her journals and hidden in writing in her art pieces.
“I want to be a living example of the fact that we have the power to have a vision or a dream, and make it a reality,” she said. “Without struggle and fight. We just need to follow our love and bliss and everything else will be taken care of.”
“My job as a master manifester is to take a seemingly extreme goal and make it very easy and feasible,” she said. “There’s no room for doubt. We have a lot of force and power in our hearts, and if you can tap into the power within you anything is possible.”
To see more of Melinda Camille’s work, check out her instagram @richestartistsalivemjc. For inquires about the show or her art, email her at email@example.com.