Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Melissa Meyer and Femmage


Meyer, Regale, 2005, oil on canvas, 65” x 80 “, melissameyerstudio.com

“When I’m painting, I work intuitively, physically, thinking about brushwork as a kind of choreography, a dance that happens in the wrists and arms, as well as the whole body.”[1]
--Melissa Meyer




With the gestural verve of Willem de Kooning, Helen Frankenthaler’s thin watercolor wash, and a fearless relationship with color, New York artist Melissa Meyer has often been billed as a “third-generation abstract expressionist.”[2]  Her graphic and painterly work exudes feeling, lightness, and a sense of harmonious movement.     
Meyer, Untitled, 1974, acrylic on canvas, 26” x 58 ”, melissameyerstudio.com

There is no understanding the work of Meyer without an understanding of the term “femmage”.  The term was coined by Meyer and feminist artist Miriam Schapiro in their co-authored essay Waste Not Want Not: An Inquiry into What Women Saved and Assembled – FEMMAGE[3].  The word refers to the historical use of collage techniques by women that harkens back to scrapbooks of the mid-20th century, patterned quilts of the 19th century and beyond.  According to Meyer and Schapiro, the act of creating compositions from fabric and paper scraps is an art form that women have embraced for centuries, in contrast to ideas that Picasso and Braque were the first to spearhead the use of collage as a formidable aesthetic technique[4].  Melissa Meyer’s work is imbued with these concepts of patchwork harmony.  Her thick swaths of bright watercolor in glyphic shapes create a color blocking effect, overlapping and bleeding together to attain rhythm and unity.  Directly addressing these feminist associations, Meyer comments, “All great artists were in touch with their masculine and feminine sides.  The best art has both.”[5] 


Detail of Midnight: The Hours of the Rat; Mother and Sleepy Child, Edo period (1615 – 1868), ca. 1790, Kitagawa Utamaro, polychrome woodblock print, 14 3/8 x 9 5/8“, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Meyer, Hartman 38, 2008, watercolor monotype, Riverhouse Editions, 27 ½ x 25”, melissameyerstudio.com
     There is joy and musicality in Meyer’s work that is immediately recognizable.  The strokes of her brush bounce and weave in bright colors whether in watercolor or oil.  Meyer muses on mediums, commenting, “Watercolor is usually connected with intimate, small-scale work… One of the pleasures of oil painting is… to make watercolor effects into something major, assertive, flamboyant.”[6]  She attests to being inspired by jazz musicians, as well as Japanese Ukiyo-e woodblock prints[7]; both of which speak to the lively fluidity of her application.  Meyer’s works have to ability to capture the spirit of these Edo period scenes in non-representational form by effortlessly balancing her use of the dark and the light without weighing down her compositions. 

Melissa Meyer, Pannonica, 1987, oil on canvas, 70” x 68”, GW Permanent Collection, Gift of Robert and Lucy Reitzfeld
Though Meyer professes her preference for watercolor, she wields oil paint with an equally emotive and vibrant quality.  She uses thinned paint to smoothly apply pooling and sometimes dripping layers of color values.  This allows the fluid texture of the paint to lead her motions in swirling amorphous shapes.  Though her earlier oil works, such as her piece Pannonica, from the GW Permanent Collection, are much darker in spirit, they contain the same liveliness and motion of her later works.  The title Pannonica references British-born jazz music patron Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter who was known as the “bebop baroness” for her commitment to the New York jazz scene during the 1950’s[8].  These eclectic sources from which Meyers draws her inspiration speak to the visual vibrancy in the language of her paintings.
After attending New York University, Melissa Meyer has enjoyed a lengthy and successful career.   She has had solo exhibitions in New York, Columbus, Ohio, and Zurich, Switzerland as well as shown in many group exhibitions including at The Jewish Museum, New York; Texas Gallery, Houston and the National Academy of Design in New York, an organization of which she is a member.  Her work is included in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the Guggenheim, the Jewish Museum, and many others.  She has worked on various public projects including massive murals for the lobby of the Shiodome City Center in Tokyo Japan and others in New York.[9]  At age 66, Meyer is currently represented by Lennon Weinberg Gallery and lives and works in New York City.  She is a frequent artist in residence at Yaddo in Saratoga Springs, New York as well as at the Vermont Studio Center.[10]


[1] Melissa Meyer, “Some Notes and Thoughts on the Shiodome Project,” (January 2003), Melissa Meyer Studio, accessed March 7, 2013, http://www.melissameyerstudio.com/documents/Shiodome.pdf.
[2] Lance Esplund, “The Lighthearted Abstract Expressionist”, The Wall Street Journal, February 21, 2009, accessed March 7, 2013, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123517123131836781.html.
[3] Miriam Schapiro and Melissa Meyer, “Waste Not Want Not: An Inquiry into What Women Saved and Assembled – FEMMAGE,” Heresies I, no. 4 (Winter 1977-78): 66-69.
[4] Schapire and Meyer, “Waste Not Want Not.”
[5] Melissa Meyer, interviewed by M.G. Lord, “Interview with Melissa Meyer,” In the Margins: 19 Interviews, (Minneapolis, MN: Montgomery Glasoe Fine Art, 1995-96), 34-36.
[6] Melissa Meyer, “Some Notes and Thoughts.”
[7] Ibid.
[8] Barry Singer, “The Baroness of Jazz”, The New York Times, October 17, 2008, accessed March 22, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/19/arts/music/19sing.html?ref=arts&_r=0
[9] “Bio,” Melissa Meyer Studio, accessed March 7, 2013, http://www.melissameyerstudio.com/press1.html.
[10] “Bio,” Melissa Meyer Studio.

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Howard Hodgkin: Paintings - May 16, 2012

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Melissa Meyer and Femmage


Meyer, Regale, 2005, oil on canvas, 65” x 80 “, melissameyerstudio.com

“When I’m painting, I work intuitively, physically, thinking about brushwork as a kind of choreography, a dance that happens in the wrists and arms, as well as the whole body.”[1]
--Melissa Meyer




With the gestural verve of Willem de Kooning, Helen Frankenthaler’s thin watercolor wash, and a fearless relationship with color, New York artist Melissa Meyer has often been billed as a “third-generation abstract expressionist.”[2]  Her graphic and painterly work exudes feeling, lightness, and a sense of harmonious movement.     
Meyer, Untitled, 1974, acrylic on canvas, 26” x 58 ”, melissameyerstudio.com

There is no understanding the work of Meyer without an understanding of the term “femmage”.  The term was coined by Meyer and feminist artist Miriam Schapiro in their co-authored essay Waste Not Want Not: An Inquiry into What Women Saved and Assembled – FEMMAGE[3].  The word refers to the historical use of collage techniques by women that harkens back to scrapbooks of the mid-20th century, patterned quilts of the 19th century and beyond.  According to Meyer and Schapiro, the act of creating compositions from fabric and paper scraps is an art form that women have embraced for centuries, in contrast to ideas that Picasso and Braque were the first to spearhead the use of collage as a formidable aesthetic technique[4].  Melissa Meyer’s work is imbued with these concepts of patchwork harmony.  Her thick swaths of bright watercolor in glyphic shapes create a color blocking effect, overlapping and bleeding together to attain rhythm and unity.  Directly addressing these feminist associations, Meyer comments, “All great artists were in touch with their masculine and feminine sides.  The best art has both.”[5] 


Detail of Midnight: The Hours of the Rat; Mother and Sleepy Child, Edo period (1615 – 1868), ca. 1790, Kitagawa Utamaro, polychrome woodblock print, 14 3/8 x 9 5/8“, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Meyer, Hartman 38, 2008, watercolor monotype, Riverhouse Editions, 27 ½ x 25”, melissameyerstudio.com
     There is joy and musicality in Meyer’s work that is immediately recognizable.  The strokes of her brush bounce and weave in bright colors whether in watercolor or oil.  Meyer muses on mediums, commenting, “Watercolor is usually connected with intimate, small-scale work… One of the pleasures of oil painting is… to make watercolor effects into something major, assertive, flamboyant.”[6]  She attests to being inspired by jazz musicians, as well as Japanese Ukiyo-e woodblock prints[7]; both of which speak to the lively fluidity of her application.  Meyer’s works have to ability to capture the spirit of these Edo period scenes in non-representational form by effortlessly balancing her use of the dark and the light without weighing down her compositions. 

Melissa Meyer, Pannonica, 1987, oil on canvas, 70” x 68”, GW Permanent Collection, Gift of Robert and Lucy Reitzfeld
Though Meyer professes her preference for watercolor, she wields oil paint with an equally emotive and vibrant quality.  She uses thinned paint to smoothly apply pooling and sometimes dripping layers of color values.  This allows the fluid texture of the paint to lead her motions in swirling amorphous shapes.  Though her earlier oil works, such as her piece Pannonica, from the GW Permanent Collection, are much darker in spirit, they contain the same liveliness and motion of her later works.  The title Pannonica references British-born jazz music patron Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter who was known as the “bebop baroness” for her commitment to the New York jazz scene during the 1950’s[8].  These eclectic sources from which Meyers draws her inspiration speak to the visual vibrancy in the language of her paintings.
After attending New York University, Melissa Meyer has enjoyed a lengthy and successful career.   She has had solo exhibitions in New York, Columbus, Ohio, and Zurich, Switzerland as well as shown in many group exhibitions including at The Jewish Museum, New York; Texas Gallery, Houston and the National Academy of Design in New York, an organization of which she is a member.  Her work is included in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the Guggenheim, the Jewish Museum, and many others.  She has worked on various public projects including massive murals for the lobby of the Shiodome City Center in Tokyo Japan and others in New York.[9]  At age 66, Meyer is currently represented by Lennon Weinberg Gallery and lives and works in New York City.  She is a frequent artist in residence at Yaddo in Saratoga Springs, New York as well as at the Vermont Studio Center.[10]


[1] Melissa Meyer, “Some Notes and Thoughts on the Shiodome Project,” (January 2003), Melissa Meyer Studio, accessed March 7, 2013, http://www.melissameyerstudio.com/documents/Shiodome.pdf.
[2] Lance Esplund, “The Lighthearted Abstract Expressionist”, The Wall Street Journal, February 21, 2009, accessed March 7, 2013, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123517123131836781.html.
[3] Miriam Schapiro and Melissa Meyer, “Waste Not Want Not: An Inquiry into What Women Saved and Assembled – FEMMAGE,” Heresies I, no. 4 (Winter 1977-78): 66-69.
[4] Schapire and Meyer, “Waste Not Want Not.”
[5] Melissa Meyer, interviewed by M.G. Lord, “Interview with Melissa Meyer,” In the Margins: 19 Interviews, (Minneapolis, MN: Montgomery Glasoe Fine Art, 1995-96), 34-36.
[6] Melissa Meyer, “Some Notes and Thoughts.”
[7] Ibid.
[8] Barry Singer, “The Baroness of Jazz”, The New York Times, October 17, 2008, accessed March 22, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/19/arts/music/19sing.html?ref=arts&_r=0
[9] “Bio,” Melissa Meyer Studio, accessed March 7, 2013, http://www.melissameyerstudio.com/press1.html.
[10] “Bio,” Melissa Meyer Studio.

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Washington, District of Columbia, United States
"Found In Collection" or simply "FIC" is the way many museums classify the more mysterious items in their possession that have little or no documentation. Here at the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery of the George Washington University, we do keep extensive records of our collection, but some of the items we come across in academic buildings or our own storage can leave us wondering. This blog is an effort to showcase some of the more curious examples and their stories, and to provide a glimpse of the great variety of art pieces within the collection. To learn more about the Brady Gallery's history, recent exhibitions, or the George Washington University, take a look at the links below.

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