Melissa Brown’s Airbrushed Oases

Artsy Editorial
Nov 26, 2013 4:12PM

After years of success with prints and collage (including striking manipulations of lottery tickets), in recent years Melissa Brown has turned to painting. Using non-traditional techniques in her paintings, a side effect of her mastery of other mediums, Brown employs oil, spray paint, dye, stencils, and airbrush. Her recent series of fantastic, imagined landscapes draw their inspiration from state parks surrounding the New York City area. While she doesn’t intend to create recognizable representations of the specific sites—recently Palisades State Park and Gertrude’s Nose trail loop in Minnewaska State Park—the paintings evoke a mix of reality and fantasy, based on her impressions of the actual natural oases.

Many of Brown’s paintings are the result of plein air painting, a practice with the potential to effectively capture a specific moment. She explains that successful plein air paintings, created with the right choice of colors, can evoke the light and temperature of the outdoor setting where they were created.

Brown cites Japanese Ukiyo-e woodblock prints as a major influence in her work, evident in her flat forms, bright colors, and the way forms merged into one another. She is also drawn to Ukiyo-e prints for their combination of observation and imagination, which she pursues in her own work. Brown says, “I crave versions of reality that come from the mind’s eye. I’m seduced by gradients and flatness that refer to commercial culture, coupled with drawings that come from an otherworldly place. Japanese prints feel timeless because they have those qualities.”

Abandoning rules of perception, her dynamic paintings describe surface and topography. Steeping her raw canvases in dye, she utilizes spray techniques and stencils to create vibrant, graphic narratives. Several works included in Fred.Giampietro Gallery’s Art Untitled booth repeat the same organic shapes to describe natural objects like rocks . Rendered in different ways, with different color palettes, the works function both individually and as a series, describing unique yet related landscapes. Each otherworldly scene, while often dark in color and envigorated with texture and forms, presents itself as a magical escape, as complex and mysterious as the creation process behind it.

On view at Fred.Giampietro Gallery, Art Untitled 2013, Booth A 08, Dec. 4th–8th.

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Artsy Editorial