Melita Westerlund grew up in Helsinki, Finland, a country that has provided significant support for artists. This was not a conscious inspiration but rather an atmosphere that made it OK to pursue art. Her early studies were at L'Ecole Des Beaux Arts in Tunisia, then back to Helsinki and the Free Art School and finally, for her undergraduate degree, at the Industrial Arts University.
Moving from Finland, she spent a couple of years in London then to Kenya with her family, and worked in batik and had a major mural commission for the National Bank of Kenya. She also taught figure drawing in the Architecture Department at the University of Nairobi. After Kenya a year was spent back in Finland. Melita then moved to the USA where she studied for her Masters Degree in Sculpture at SUNYBuffalo.
Her early focus was figurative. Having access to a foundry meant that much of her work was cast in bronze. During this period her figurative work began to evolve into something between the literal and the abstract. Human forms grew into Baobab trees in drawings, plasters and bronzes. The bronze medium did not lend itself to much color which seemed to explode out of her work after her move to Bar Harbor.
Steel was bent and shaped into complex forms and were vibrantly polychromatic. This work has been selected for commissioned pieces for a number of schools throughout Maine. As her sculpture evolved from steel to aluminum, polished surfaces were added to the pigmented ones. Throughout much of her time in Maine she has made cast paper compositions in parallel with her sculpture. Working with pigmented paper pulp was a precursor to her newest work. The medium she developed utilizes cotton waste placed over an armature of metal and mesh to form “coral like” objects. This sculpture is dedicated, in part, to increasing the awareness of the destruction of the coral reefs as the forms and texture have a similarity to those of the coral.
However, her work deviates from literally representing the coral to being a jumping off point in both form and color.