Artists in residence explores contrasts on museum walls in ‘act of drawing’
By Daniel Silliman
PENINSULA DAILY NEWS
PORT ANGELES -- The artist’s notebooks was sprawled open at the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center Thursday, white pages open on the top of a piled stack of art books.
Spokane artists Melissa Lang’s neat printed writing and loose lines of drawing cross the blue grid of the book.
A loosely drawn bird, inked in black circles, perches on the thin line of a forked twig on the right side of the page. His head, cocked curiously, looks toward a list of the artists appointments to draw for children.
A phone number scrawled out upside down formed the ground beneath the bird.
Lang, an emerging Spokane artist working in residency on a mural beginning Thursday and lasting two weeks, stood against a large white wall in the Fine Arts Center.
Her hair was bound up in a red handkerchief, her denim jeans rolled up to her knees, the charcoal she was working with smudged across her jaw.
With a stick of charcoal in her hand, Lang gestured at the upper right corner of the wall, the emerging piece of art.
“I love the contrast between the delicacy of the lines and the dark foreboding,” she said.
She moves an outstretched hand in an arch. The charcoal scratched across the wall, leaving black and gray lines in a descending vine with tailing leaves.
“I generally have an idea, a feeling, and work from that,” Lang said. “I never know exactly because so many wonderful things can happen.”
A solo exhibit of her work is on display at the museum from Sunday August 4 through Sunday, October 13.
Lang moved across the wall like the dancer she once was with charcoal in her hand leaving shades of black and gray across the wall.
Working on a large wall is different from her smaller work, Lang said. It is physical, more directed by the moves of her body.
“It’s physical, like dance,” she said. “I’m not as careful and things are more natural on a large space.”
Lang said she likes think of drawing not just as a noun, a thing, but also as a verb, an action.
Drawing on a wall with people wandering in and watching, Lang is practicing art as a performance, she said.
Leaves from the art museum are spread for inspection upon the windowsill for inspection and inspiration.
Lang works from memory, from inspiration, from close study and from a reaction to the world around her, she said.
“The minute I got here I felt inspired. It feels like being a child again,” Lang said, using her hand to smudge the white walls with
black charcoal, creating contrasts and opposites and dichotomies on the wall.
Lang believes in dichotomies and opposites.
Her work shows the juxtaposition of chaos and order, dark and light, lines and shapes, science and art, reason and emotion.
“I sometimes think the art is about the human experience of balancing intellect and emotion,” she said, “sort of impulse and deliberations.”
Lang’s art, work in blacks and grays charcoal with the splashing colors of paint, is of nature shown with a mixture of abstraction and representation.
“Science denies, with that kind of objectivity, the sensuality of nature,” Lang said.
Lang hopes to unite the two, the supposed opposites, in her work.
“I want to see what else I can find,” she said.
In the swirls of emotion and sensuality she puts orderly lines and shapes.
It’s all a matter of the many ways of viewing a thing, she said.
“A circle can be a dot or a sphere or a ring or an apple or an orange.”
The public is invited to come watch the “Port Angeles Project” in progress and ask Lang about her work during museum hours, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday through Sunday.
Lang will lecture on her work and show slides on Thursday, August 8 at 7 p.m.
NOTES: This is my version of the story, unedited by the Peninsula Daily News. I am considering a longer post on postmodern art, using Lang and her work. Stay tuned.