Melissa Wagner-Lawler is an artist and Teaching Faculty in the Printmaking & Book Arts department at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design and Master of Fine Arts in Visual Studies from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, both with an emphasis in printmaking. For over a decade, Wagner-Lawler’s practice has been dedicated to artist books and exploring the intricacies of the format. Her artist books use letterpress and other printmaking techniques to investigate elements of tension, the breakdown of information and the fragility of circumstance. To date, she has produced 15 editioned book works, all of which are housed within collections around the country.
Over the course of her career, she has taught artist book and printmaking workshops outside of her primary institution at Penland School of Craft, the Bindery, Peninsula School of Art, and RedLine Community Art Studio. In 2021, Wagner-Lawler was invited to present about her work for Ettinger Book Artist Series Lecture hosted by the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee’s Golda Meir Special Collections Library. She was recently selected to participate in the Pandemic Book Project organized by Florida State University’s Small Craft Advisory Press where she worked collaboratively with writer Patrycja Humienik to create a small chapbook which became part of the final work, Escape Tunnels.
In Spring 2023, she was a Visiting Artist at University of Arkansas - Fort Smith where she did an artist talk about her work, led a workshop, and produced an editioned artist book, entitled Inside Jokes with fellow artist Jay Fox. In Summer 2023, Wagner-Lawler was an Artist in Residence at In Cahoots Residency in Petaluma, California. She received the In Cahoots Residency Grant in Book Arts and the Research Assistance Fund Grant from UWM to support the production of an artist book during her residency.
Wagner-Lawler’s work has been exhibited widely and is held in over 40 notable collections, including the Library of Congress Rare Book Collection, Stanford University, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, University of Washington, Yale University and the Smithsonian American Art & Portraiture Library.