Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


MeloD paints her way to fulfillment

Her name evokes soothing visions, but her message is not harmonious. If anything, MeloD is as unique as her name, and wants to strike a dissonant chord with you. She wants to change the world one university at a time, and this soft-spoken woman has the strength and the means to make it happen.

Her means is the oil canvas. Her message is painted there in brutal honesty. It’s disturbing, shocking, beautiful, and controversial. Mostly, it is the truth of her life laid bare. Her life was one of violence, one 25 percent of women in this country share with her. That’s why MeloD has been on tour for the past two years with her paintings. She tours to reveal her painful past and to educate young women about the choices they make.

On the FAU campus last Wednesday, MeloD spoke about the horrors she endured in her efforts to change the social epidemic of domestic violence. Her visual diary, entitled “The Domestic Violence Series,” depicts the emotional, psychological, sexual, verbal, and physical abuse she withstood in her marriage. It also depicts her escape.

She said these nine paintings “were never meant for the public to see. They were self-portraits for therapy.” They were a part of her desire to re-visit those moments and to understand what happened to her. That she has ended up speaking in front of crowds at 59 Universities as a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Health’s Sexual Violence Prevention Program is a surprise to this shy woman. It isn’t a surprise, however, to any who see her work.

She was born into a family of artists; her mother is a gifted artist and six of her eleven siblings paint. MeloD’s artistic emergence was practically inevitable given her genetics. This artist was nearly waylaid by her husband for he didn’t want her to paint, and, while married to him, she didn’t express her talent.

As she said, “He wanted to keep me barefoot and pregnant.” For a time, he was successful, but, once free to paint again, MeloD had to paint her past before she could live her present. Her story is vividly expressed in each painting of the series. The emotions evoked are gripping, even if her story is not part of the viewer’s experience. Her turmoil, fear, and joy are all evident. The last two paintings of the series directly oppose the first two. “Tender Embrace” and “Un-forbidden” reveal MeloD’s newfound joy in life and love, while “Fear” and “Unworthy” depict the agony of her imprisonment.

This agony is even better understood through the story MeloD revealed as she discussed the third painting, “Denial.” Five months pregnant and inflicted with gonorrhea by her openly philandering husband, MedoD was enmeshed in her husband’s lies. She believed him when he told her that he cheated because she was inadequate in the bedroom. Convinced, MeloD went to a sex therapist at her husband’s insistence. However, nothing pleased her husband, and the beatings and psychological games continued. Only after eight years of abuse and four attempts, was MeloD able to leave.

As MeloD pointed out, “I’m above average.” On average, it takes a woman seven times before she can leave an abusive relationship for good. MeloD spoke of the tremendous hold her husband had over her, and how difficult it was to escape. The first time she left for only hours before he convinced her to return, the second, for days, the third, for weeks, and the fourth time she was finally able to stay away forever.

Thirteen years since those tumultuous days, she is in a healthy and nurturing relationship. Keith, her fiancí©, travels with her, emotionally and financially supporting her effort to educate about domestic abuse. Because of her healthy relationship, MeloD has learned about, “simple things like anger – that there are healthy ways to express it and deal with it.” MeloD credits much of her ability to trust a man again, to her paintings.

At times she would lock herself up in her studio for days, painting away the emotions that haunted her, and still give her nightmares. The paintings mark her journey from fear to “Un-forbidden” and to “a life that is fulfilling and challenging.” She began painting five years after she left her husband in her “desire to reach for truth,” and she says painting “set her free” from the cycle of abuse.

MeloD also credits the Women’s Shelter in Land O’ Lakes County for “saving her life.” With their assistance, she had the courage to stay away from her husband, to keep her children safe, and to learn new behaviors that would lead to her profound growth as an artist and a human being.

After the shelter assisted her, MeloD continued to volunteer, became a mentor to other abused women, and later became a member of the board of directors at the shelter. Through them, she began this newest endeavor to educate college students to recognize and avoid unhealthy relationships.

MeloD admits that part of her problem was that she simply didn’t know what a healthy relationship was, nor did she know how to set boundaries for herself. This is the message she wants others to hear. She also hopes that women who are in abusive relationships will see some truth in her paintings and find the courage to leave, or at least reach what she calls “Awareness” (fifth painting in the series).

For her, awareness occurred after her sister told her that MeloD’s niece could no longer baby-sit and when a neighbor’s child was forbidden to come over to play. Only when MeloD realized that her children were being affected did she feel empowered to leave. Sadly, MeloD knew that even when a woman leaves for good, quite often she ends up in similar relationships because she fails to do enough self-reflection or “Introspection” (seventh painting in the series).

MeloD was determined to leave the victim behind, but she had to learn how to love herself in order to become healthy. Fortunately, she found that her art, the sharing of her story, the shelter, the support of her family and friends, and the knowledge she gained allowed her to change her own behavior patterns. MeloD is quick to point out that the victim of violence is not blameless because she enables the abuse. MeloD said, “As victims we have a responsibility, too – to learn all we can so we can break the cycle to stop it.”

It’s emotionally draining, but she continues to tour and reach as many as possible so she can help others break that cycle. The artist feels she is making a difference in men’s and women’s lives, and it fulfils her that, ” [from] all that pain came something wonderful.”

Scheduled to end her tour next March, MeloD is looking for a home to donate her paintings to so that they may continue to “do the most good for the most victims of abuse.”

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