Eye on the figure
This story was featured in the October 2012 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Order the Southwest Art magazine October 2012 print edition here, or purchase the Southwest Art magazine October 2012 digital download here. Or subscribe to Southwest Art magazine and never miss a story!
Melissa Gann couldn’t attend the Oil Painters of America’s National Juried Exhibition, held in June at Evergreen Fine Art in Evergreen, CO. But the day after the awards ceremony, she opened up a laptop in her Atlanta-area kitchen to see if anyone she knew had won an award. When she saw that her painting GENTLENESS had received an Award of Excellence from juror Quang Ho, she let out a squeal of delight.
The painting holds a special place in her heart because it depicts her daughter, Emily. About a year ago Gann, 33, set out to capture the mother-and-child dynamic, she recalls. She enlisted a neighbor to pose with her daughter. During the modeling session, Gann says, she made a point of waiting until Emily appeared “cozy and serene” and the scene evoked a mood of tenderness and intimacy between her models. “I think I was channeling Mary Cassatt,” Gann says, referring to the American Impressionist painter.
As she has grown older, Gann says, she has been more drawn to creating figurative work because the human form and face have become endlessly fascinating to her. “A slight change in posture can reinterpret a room and change the mood,” she says. “If you see someone slumped in a chair, it creates an entirely different mood then if they were sitting on the edge of a chair sipping tea.”
Gann majored in music in college and once dreamed about life as a concert pianist. But after graduation she did a monthlong apprenticeship with painter Claudia Hartley, and her career path took a sharp turn toward the visual arts. Hartley advised Gann to seek out the best teachers—counsel that eventually led her to take workshops with Scott Burdick, Susan Lyon, Nancy Seamons Crookston, and Dan Gerhartz.
In the past, her work has been described as painterly realism; however, she says that recently she is striving to be more painterly than realistic. With this change in direction, her next artistic mission is to pursue workshops with artists who possess a style she admires, such as Montana impressionist Carolyn Anderson. “I’m more and more drawn to looseness and abstraction,” Gann says. —Bonnie Gangelhoff
Featured in the October 2012 issue of Southwest Art magazine–click below to purchase:
Southwest Art magazine October 2012 digital download
Southwest Art magazine October 2012 print edition
Or subscribe to Southwest Art magazine and never miss a story!
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