unSWEETened 16

Filmed with HERO3 GoPro
Mixed media on canvas
by Melanie Renecker


I’ve been schlepping my journals from home to home and across many a State line from at least the age of fourteen. That’s nearly twenty-four years of commitment. But like photographs, journals are far more accurate at recording events than memory.

I grew up a latchkey kid in the secluded outskirts of Spokane, Washington. My sister wasn’t born until after I had turned fifteen, so much of my childhood was spent in solitude. I look back at those early years with fondness; memories of climbing trees, making treasure maps, and dreaming of horses. But there was something in the Void on the cusp of my teens that flipped a switch and made me think of the World differently. When the bubble of childhood innocence popped I tumbled into the deepest, darkest recesses of my mind and soul…insecure, melodramatic, and hopelessly depressed.

Sometimes those who are smiling are the saddest of all.

I didn’t get my act together until my late twenties and without periodically leafing through my journals, I wouldn’t be able to fully appreciate the enormous progress I’ve made. There was definitely something cathartic about making this piece… proof that art, music, and writing likely saved my life.

For questions, comments, etc. contact me at seattlediy@yahoo.com



melanie1 A glimpse into my teenage bedroom; the walls were painted baby blue and covered with magazine clippings of animals, eyes, collages, and other images. The window here shows a picture of the Spokane River (not the view from my childhood window). Self-conscious and insecure I once forced myself to sit in front of a mirror and not move until I found something I liked.

melanie3 melanie2The earliest journal I still have in my possession dates back to 1992, when I was 14. I’d been writing poetry and short stories, though, for a number of years prior. I had dreams of publishing a chapbook of poetry and a book of short horror stories and even wrote to publishers inquiring about the process. These journals range in topic from suicide, crushes and petty grievances; to dreams, doodles, and lists.


Kurt Cobain died roughly five months before I turned sixteen and it was the most devastating and tragic news I had ever received. I built a shrine in my room in his honor and took to journaling with more zeal and vitriol. The journal of early 1994 was dubbed the Hate Book and is heavily laced with bitter self-loathing and animosity.


Born and raised in the Catholic Church, I had been struggling with questions of faith and religion in my pre-teens. By 1994, I was vehemently against the notion of GOD. In school I had begun researching eastern philosophies and Wicca. I began romanticizing death and the occult and was obsessed with the film The Crow.


While Nirvana was the perfect outlet for my inner rage, Nine Inch Nails was the perfect outlet for my inner demons. By 1995 I had embraced punk and could release my pent-up aggression in the mosh pit with careless abandon.


On my sixteenth birthday I got the keys to my Grandparent’s Yugo that had been sitting in our yard. I was a poor kid in a wealthy school district and the humiliation of driving a Yugo overpowered the appreciation I should have had. In retrospect that car gave me absolute freedom and took my friends and me on a lot of crazy adventures.

The Process

On the first day of school a teacher might suggest that a project, either individual or group, will be due at some point in that class’s future. If the subject is hinted at there is a good chance that I will already have an idea or three at the ready. Inspiration via assignment and a deadline seems to be the fuse that lights the gunpowder of my imagination.

Step 1: Brainstorming, Listing, Research, & Planning

Step 1: Brainstorming, Listing, Research, & Planning

Step 2: Collecting & Prepping Materials

Step 2: Collecting & Prepping Materials

Step 3: Assembling Materials, Prepping Workspace

Step 3: Assembling Materials, Prepping Workspace

Step 4: Recording & Editing Audio & Video

Step 4: Recording & Editing Audio & Video