Melissa Chimera is a conservationist and Honolulu native of Lebanese and Filipino ancestry. She studied natural resources management at the University of Hawai‘i, a world epicenter for plant and animal extinction and worked for two decades as a conservation manager. Chimera’s work investigates species extinction, globalization and human migration. Her work has been exhibited worldwide, with solo shows such as Migrant at the Honolulu Museum of Art and Agents of Change at the Hui No‘eau Visual Arts Center, Maui. Her most recent project as artist and curator is The Far Shore: Navigating Homelands for the Arab American National Museum. The exhibition of contemporary art and poetry concerns a highly politicized issue–Arab immigration to America–viewed through the lens of the personal and familial. Other collaborations include Inheritance: Reclaiming Land and Spirit for the Sharjah Bienniale 9 and Moving Cultures, a collaborative art-making train ride across 2,000 miles of China in 2009. Chimera is the recipient of the Catherine E. B. Cox Award and has been named as a finalist for the 2019 Lange-Taylor Prize, Duke University Documentary Studies. She keeps a studio on Hawai‘i Island where she lives with her husband and son.
Old Country, Syria, 2018
Oil, ink, silk, and kozo paper, and canvas on linen
Excerpt from Statement
Melissa Chimera traces her Lebanese ancestry in this family tree where a postcard written from her grandfather, Nash Ne Jame, to his only surviving brother after World War I, uses the term “old country.” WWI claimed five out of eight immediate family members, and while significantly traumatic to Ne Jame’s youth, his pre-American life was a subject he never discussed, leaving the artist to piece together a family history through documents and photographs.