Perhaps more than other artistic mediums, painting’s hallmark is its ability to illustrate or chart the artist’s psychological landscape. After all, the artist is pushing paint directly onto the canvas; there’s nothing “digital” about it, and the works bear the weight of not only the psyche but the sheer physicality of the painter.
The paintings of Vance Mellen take the idea to a few unusual places. That’s due, in part, to his current residency in a state known for being tops in the use of antidepressants (that’s us) and his time spent in Topeka, Kan., dubbed “the mental health capital of the world” because of its multiple asylums. Also, this multimedia artist enhances his paintings with a cinematic sense in his Illuminated Paintings show at Art Access.
These unique landscape paintings include small, transparent/plastic giclee objects that he photographed and embedded in the paintings and illuminated from behind with rope lights and LED lights (“Abandoned Gauss Church” is pictured). The lights have the effect of deepening the sense of seclusion of whomever is inside these ramshackle residences, set against stark backgrounds; the act of illumination highlights what is hidden.
One image of a church graveyard features a miniature animation of Mellen trying to crawl out of his father’s grave, wearing the man’s suit. It’s an almost Freudian moment in diorama form.