Artist's Statement for the TWU M.F.A Exhibition

Since graduating from Louisiana State University in 1962, I have been a full time commercial artist and designer. I have designed and produced two and three dimensional work for three science and history museums, a commercial exhibit house and now, for the last twenty one years, my own art business. Parallel to this has been my teaching and personal work in drawing and painting.

About twelve years ago, while perusing a flea market, I discovered a wooden peg top of a type that I spent many pleasurable hours spinning as a boy. It instantly brought back nostalgic memories of my father teaching me to spin tops. The feeling was so overwhelming, I bought the top. Two years later I had a sizable top collection and it is still growing. I’ve also collected other antique toys such as lead soldiers, airplanes, die cast figures, Sky King rings and a multitude of other childhood icons. My father is no longer living, but fond memories of him flourish around these objects. The next logical step was to make art related to those memories.

I keep sketchbooks with drawings and notes of what I feel, think, imagine, see and read that is germane to my work. I draw and photograph still lifes of toys. I photocopy these images, then cut, fold, recombine, reverse, enlarge, and reduce, the elements to stimulate and enhance my seeing capacity.

My work at Texas Woman’s University has been a continuation of this toy series but with far more variations on the theme, and more development toward abstraction and inclusion of three dimensional elements. Initial drawings and photographs of a tableau of airplanes and tops have evolved into dozens of derivative drawings and paintings. I allow my imagination to run free while looking at the drawings and seek new meanings and images within them. A drawing viewed sideways or upside down can suggest airplanes in the sky, or on the ground being viewed from above, or crashed in a landscape, or any number of different situations. Wings become buildings, propellers become windmills, broken lines and marks become figures. Airplanes grow to huge proportions but are fragmented and deconstructed. More and more I am letting the painting lead me in this dance, pushing and pulling, adding and subtracting paint and marks until the painting has some semblance of being right. I am intrigued by images that are not definitive. Those qualities of multiple layered meaning along with varying degrees of abstraction are what I am striving for.

My work, which started with watercolor on paper, progressed to acrylic on canvas and finally to acrylic, collage and three dimensional elements on one by two inch reinforced plywood panels. These panels give me a rigid surface for more easily integrating three dimensional parts. The most recent evolutionary step of the work has been the breaking through of the solid surface of the picture plane to reveal compartments inside the panel. These compartments, housing soldiers, toys, figures and drawings, become a metaphor for the finding of earlier signs of life as in archeology sites. These found or revealed icons are either framed in rectangles or are in “holes” simply broken through the panel surface. Some are covered with metal bars or with transparent Plexiglas adding more layers of meaning to the pieces.



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© Joseph Melançon. All rights Reserved.
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