hidell brooks is pleased to announce we are now representing the work of artist mel rea. new drawings by mel rea are currently on view in our group exhibition along side the solo show for sarah helser. mel lives and works in ohio and received her bfa in ceramics from kent state university. she paints in a variety of mediums including encaustic, oil, acrylic, ink and powdered graphite.
i began my artistic career as a devoted clay sculptor. however, as time passed, i began to long for a change. several years back i explored new options while exhausting more mediums than i can recall. it was during this period that i discovered a small batch of beeswax left behind from the last of my grandfather’s beehives.
my grandfather spent his childhood in russia where he was inspired to build an apiary farm. his dream came true as an adult in the states where he built and farmed his own set of beehives.
as a young girl, i felt such a sense of peace walking amongst my grandfather’s hives. i developed a very deep connection, respect, and appreciation for mother nature. like many artists, she is a constant source of inspiration. this connection along with that old batch of beeswax is what led my transition away from clay and into encaustic painting (painting with molten beeswax). i am grateful for the intense labors of the beautiful honeybee, and consider beeswax a unique gift to be treasured. as a strange twist of fate, my name is translated in the greek word for “honeybee”.
i love traditional japanese pottery and contemporary japanese painting. the soft satin finish of the beeswax along with the ability to incise elegant clean lines, was just what i’d longed to achieve. while many japanese works of art juxtapose subtle softness beside bursts of vibrant colors, with encaustics i too could soften my light filled blues while keeping my reds and ochers intensely opaque. composition and color in my paintings are meant to reflect the emotional balance i draw from our natural world.
as i feel committed to being in a constant state of evolution, i’ve expanded from encaustic into many other mediums. i’ve found a lot of comfort in more traditional mediums such as watercolors and oil paints. most recently i’ve found that alkyd oils set a comfortable pace for my work. for me this oil paint alternative is akin to the bed goldilocks deemed most comfortable. it dries slower than acrylic paint, but more quickly than traditional oils. with alkyd paints, i am physically moving fast and furiously, but the dry time is slow enough for me to contemplatively work back into a piece during a painting session. it has provided a great deal of physical and psychological freedom, and a direction i am inspired to pursue.
mel rea’s encaustics poetically unite the eternal and the ethereal. an accumulation of layers preserves each step of the creative process, and yet each layer obscures the one that came before, creating a surface that obscures as much as it reveals, tantalizes more than it gives away. mel rea’s imagery defies definition. her encaustics might be described as landscapes of the imagination, but in the world she conjures, solidity gives way to shimmering liquidity, the weight of water evaporates into atmosphere. mel rea uses the most immutable of mediums to create mercurial images that seem to dematerialize before the viewer’s eyes and respond to light and time of day. in a feat of alchemy, she achieves similar effects in oil that glimmer on canvas. blues ranging from azure to steel gray bring to mind cloud studies by constable and whistler’s nocturnes, while iridescent pinks and amethyst and verdant greens recall monet’s visions at giverny. and yet, mel rea’s work in both encaustic and oil is entirely her own, beguiling in its evershifting imagery and seductive surfaces.
heather lemonedes, ph.d.
curator of drawings
the cleveland museum of art
the above grouping is hanging in the current group exhibition up through december 20th. please call the gallery if you have any questions concerning the work of mel rea.