The Camden Public Library welcomes Melanie Essex to the Picker Room Gallery for the month of November. Her dynamic and colorful paintings hold fascinating hidden detail. There will be an opening reception on Saturday, November 4 at 4:00 pm, with a chance to meet the artist.
“All of my work begins with looking at, then responding to the natural world," says Essex. "As a young painter in New York, I worked in a life studio, drawing and painting from the model 8 hours a day, 5 days a week for 4 years. In the summers I would get out of the city, when I could, to work directly from the rural, waterfront landscape of my childhood on eastern Long Island. Painting in that low, bucolic bay setting had a huge impact on the way I developed as an artist. There were big skies over thin strips of land, barrier beaches or the distant shore across the bay. I often worked on wood panels, joining them together horizontally to span a vista, or vertically to emphasize events along the horizon. I decided I was a landscape painter and that was that."
A move to London in 1995 shifted her focus to urban landscapes – first exploring the view from her World’s End studio, then painting for several years from perches at the top of skyscrapers and finally from the banks of the Thames.
Though humans rarely appeared in this work, she kept drawing from the figure throughout. At first, Essex drew from paintings in the National Gallery. Titian, Tintoretto and Veronese were her favorites. Going forward, she snatched opportunities where she could – taking a life class at the Royal College of Art, sharing a model with painter friends, joining groups in London and then in Rockland as well in Tenants Harbor and Thomaston. Those summer sessions were especially wonderful as they drew outside – amongst trees, unruly vegetable gardens, stacks of firewood, sleeping dogs, curious chickens – in the landscape.
"Then," Essex continues, "About ten years ago figures began creeping into my work to compete for attention with the sky and the ground. The Field/Sky/Figure series was made in my last London studio – a converted greenhouse at the bottom of an overgrown garden. The Thames was in walking distance and supplied plenty of material – sky, clouds, tidal water, fog and the kind of dramatic sunsets enhanced by urban pollution. Increasingly figures began to dominate the painted fields beneath the skies. The Power Plant series evolved as a counterpoint – signaling the human presence in the form of silos, typical of post-war power generating stations in the UK.”
Melanie Essex graduated from Harvard in 1981 and after a successful career in film production – her work is now part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art – she studied painting at the New York Studio School from 1990-1994. Her work has been exhibited in London and New York and in Maine, and is in important private collections on both sides of the Atlantic, including several trustees of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. After two decades in London she has returned to the US and lives and works in Cushing, Maine. She is represented by the Caldbeck Gallery in Rockland Maine.
Camden Public Library
55 Main St.
Camden, Maine 04843