Hello. My name is Melissa Alabama Graves. I rose from the dead on October 16th in a small haunted town in the dark woods of New Jersey. From the beginning, nothing about my life has been ordinary… I guess you can call this page my earliest attempt to put my life in linear order, even though my life has been anything but linear…
Art runs in my blood. I began painting and drawing without the aid of schooling or proper training in PRE-K, scaring my catholic school teachers and convincing them early on I was possessed by the devil, landing me many a day in the church confessional. By the age of six I was hanging out around the local funeral home and collecting the bones of various small animals and storing them under my pillow. By the time I reached junior high, I had amassed a collection of classic zombie & burlesque films, and begun escaping to NYC on the weekends with my older friends to attend concerts and wander the village at night,
In the fall of 2003 I packed my bags and moved to NYC to attend the School of Visual Arts. I immediately planted my roots in the vibrant underground music and fetish scenes, and soon after became involved in the exploding NYC tattoo/cultural scene – a move which has since launched me into a career in modeling and live performance.
At SVA, under the guidance of some of the best working artists in contemporary world, I expanded my technical expertise and artistic vision by delving into volumes of historic texts and photographs from early 20th century crime photographers, circus companies, medical libraries, and monographs from places such as the Mutter Museum and the Musée Dupuytren in Pairs. My first show in December of 2006 (Festering Through Infectious Time) debuted my vision of the art show as circus theme, even capping off the show with a spoken word poetry performance by none other than Eak the Geek from Coney Island fame. This show was applauded by the school, and followed directly by inclusion in a group exhibition at the Visual Arts Gallery in Chelsea (Tomorrow’s Artists Today, March 2007). My graduation show in May 2007 (The Aristocrats) expanded on my vision of the living sideshow, a vision launched by years of my morbid research.
It is worth noting that during my time at SVA, starting in 2005, I also got involved in a ground breaking movement in NYC started by Noah Levine – son of Stephen and Ondrea Levine – called Dharma Punx. I owe my life to that group, and am eternally grateful for their existence. For the next decade, and ongoing today, I am still heavily involved in the spiritual movement going on here in NYC. A one of a kind screen print made especially for the group can still be seen hanging in the 302 Bowery (Lila Yoga) meditation room, where classes still take place every Tuesday at 7pm.
After graduating in May 2007, I have shown my work in several group exhibitions, including multiple shows at Tattoo Culture in Williamsburg, Brooklyn with collectives including False Aristocracy and the After Sputnik Project, and most recently at the Art Students League in midtown Manhattan (May 2015, class exhibition, Deborah Winiarski’s ‘Mixed Media’)
In the summer of 2008 I traveled to France to rendezvous with famous French tattoo artist Noon and several stars of the body modifications scene. While in Paris I expanded my studies of medical texts and historic photography at the Musée Dupuytren itself, the Musée d’Histoire de la Médecine, and the Museum of Eroticism. I also had the chance to visit the famous red light district, Pere Lachaise cemetary, and many underground art and music clubs.
In 2009 I ventured to LA for more mischief with legendary friends of the bi-costal music scene; there I got to meet Kat Von D, Nikki Sixx, Bam Margera and many other celebrities (sadly though, not the Kardashians, but they weren’t very famous at that time), as well as explore famous artistic and cultural havens of the City of Angels.
In 2009-2010 I was privileged to have my own solo show at Ripley’s Believe it Or Not! Odditorium in Times Square NYC, kicking off several years of non stop fun. At the same time my modeling career surged, and from 2010-11 I was featured in full spread features in multiple magazines including Tatowier Magazin, International Tattoo and Bizarre UK. In January 2012 I began starring in the first of many episodes of Law & Order: Criminal Intent (S.9. Ep.11 for starters) and Gossip Girl. You can also see me in Acey Slade’s music video for “She Brings Down the Moon” and the documentary on Dharma Punx entitled “Meditate & Destroy” (produced by Blue Lotus Films Inc which is currently for sale online).
Today I live and work out of my own private enclave on the Cemetary’s Edge in the great city of Gotham. I continue to show my work both individually and in group exhibitions, and pursue my art and modeling careers with much enthusiasm and love, expanding the list of productions and publications I’ve been in regularly (including but not limited to Inked, Rebel Ink, Skin & Ink, Tattoo, the hit CBS show Elementary, Law & Order: SVU, and more). I also make yearly appearances at the NYC Tattoo Convention, as well as the past two years of Mario Barth’s new INKED OUT NJ Tattoo Convention, winning Best Color Tattoo (for my leg tattoos by Gene Coffey of Tattoo Culture).
You can find me working away at the famous Strand Books in Union Square, and soon I will be including a section on my reading lists / book recommendations and reviews in the coming months.
Stay tuned for more of my adventures!