Tuesday, October 23, 2012

interview #2 - melodie provenzano

The Mr. Becos interview series continues with Melodie Provenzano, a Harlem-based artist whose paintings recently filled the windows of Saks 5th Avenue and who has an upcoming solo show at Lyons Wier Gallery in NYC (opens Nov 15) that you ought not to miss.  She also records off-kilter lo-fi songs under the name Connie Acher.
Mr. Becos: I recently saw one of your business cards, which features a frog pleasuring a woman.
Provenzano: Ha ha ha ha, how did that make you feel?
Mr. Becos: It made me feel uncomfortable and ashamed. I'm the one giving the interview here.
Provenzano: The business card is based on a painting entitled Green Frog Scene, 24 x 48 inches,
oil and acrylic on canvas. A collector and gallery owner from Spain, Jean Paul Perrier, purchased the
painting at my 2011 show at the Marketplace Gallery in Albany.

Mr. Becos: Do you feel guilty about making animals engage in erotica to sell art to Spaniards?
Provenzano: No guilt here, as Magritte might say, "Ceci n'est pas une grenouille." The painting was
made in 2008, as a metaphorical reflection of aspects of my love life at that time, no potential buyer was
conceived of during its making. It was icing on the cake when that particular phase of my life ended and
the painting found a home in Europe.
Mr. Becos: I looked up grenouille and it means frog. It's also short for "grating-eliminated no-nonsense
observation of ultrafast incident laser light e-fields", some kind of laser gating technique. Have you in
any way ever used awesome lasers in your work?
Provenzano: Concerning "grenouille" in the "laser" sense, here is an image of a detail of a painting
entitled London, Paris, New York, Beverly Hills, Rome, Athens, Geneva, Hong Kong, which I am currently finishing for my upcoming solo show. I think that if you use your imagination you may be able to see the explosive stillness or "observation of ultra-fast incident" and laser like qualities highlighting the bow.

Mr. Becos: I see what you mean. But I also really have to ask, in a blunt way, how the hell do you have
the patience to paint something like this? Or is patience one of the points? I have the same thought
when I see the way you capture glass objects. In an indirect way it makes me think of Buddhist sand
paintings, at least in terms of focus.
Provenzano: Practice. My mother taught me how to color and stay in the lines at a young age. It was
positive reinforcement when I was 3 years old, and I won a coloring contest competing with 5 year
olds. The prize was $10. I remember how happy I was to buy a LITE-BRITE with my winnings. I think that
experience, along with the constant approval of my parents for me to be an artist, conditioned me. It
felt meaningful and good to be painting or drawing and even more so today, so through practice I have
acquired patience with myself and the work. I have little knowledge of Buddhist sand paintings, but my
process is very meditative, focusing intensely on the object, observing and rendering it until it's clear and
singing so to speak.
Mr. Becos: Well, a bunch of monks get together and create a big mandela one grain of sand at a time. It
takes forever, then when they're finished they immediately destroy it.
Next question: I understand that you sometimes listen to the stand up comedy of Sinbad while
artmaking. In what way has Sinbad influenced your work? Have you ever sent him a piece? Is he dead?
Provenzano: Dead? In spirit, never! Sinbad has probably influenced my relationship with my husband
more than my artwork. There is a particular sketch in which Sinbad asks his wife if he can go play
basketball with the guys and he says to her in this dopey voice, "You can see me from the window." I say
this to Hans when he informs me that he is going to do something without me, like play soccer or see a
band... and we laugh! Maybe someday I'll send Sinbad a thank you card for being funny and enriching
my marriage, and I'll definitely send him a piece of art after he buys it. The question is will Sinbad's wife
let him purchase a piece of my art?
Mr. Becos: In all this excitement about Sinbad I think I skipped the question about how you select all
of the objects in your paintings. In your more recent work you've tended towards incredibly fine and detailed renderings of seemingly random objects: glasses, broken figurines, knick knacks, etc.. How do you select these things? Do you consider the symbols? Select intuitively? Does each have a personal meaning?
Provenzano: Thank you for noticing the "incredibly fine and detailed renderings". The objects,
although "seemingly random" are chosen deliberately as a result of some level of attraction. I
am visually stimulated by the way things look, and I feel an unexplainable resonance with their
implied meanings, whether it be a plastic skeleton or an empty glass vase, something about them is
magnetizing. There are certain reoccurring objects that I have a strong self-identification with, such
as "the prayer girl". See her depicted in the detail of "Bermuda Triangle", another painting being
featured in my upcoming exhibition. I intuitively set up still lifes with these objects, as you say, "making
them into a kind of transformational reality," then paint directly from observing them. There is no
particular story to illustrate, no definitive symbology, just a reflection of my current emotional reality as
I conceive of it visually through a given composition. My paintings are like a catalog of dreams, which are
open to a multitude of interpretations by viewers.

Mr. Becos: What can you tell me about deep sea diving?
Provenzano: I dove deeply in the conventional sense one time, while visiting the Galapagos Islands.
We went 30 ft. below sea level, after a five minute crash course in scuba diving. I sucked up all of my
nervousness and gave the enormous fears I was having over to the experience. It was amazing, like
being suspended in a transparent cloud, floating along with giant turtles, little sharks, innumerable
varieties of fish... absolutely beautiful, just shy of literally being breath-taking, thankfully.