The Lemon: A Short History, mixed media, 46 x 46 by Melinda K. Hall
By Devon Jackson
In the imaginative paintings of Melinda K. Hall, a prune isn’t merely a prune, nor is a dog just a dog. Instead, a prune is both noun and verb; dogs are mischievous, loyal, tiny, playful, and silly. Everything that Hall paints—from fruit to animals to shoes—is alive with vivid, bursting colors; with text, letters, and doodlings; with arrows to this and to that; and with a crazy kind of uninhibited joy and goofy humor that’s entirely disarming.
“Most of my paintings have some sort of humorous aside in them, because I want my work to be approachable,” says Hall, standing amid her latest series on fruit inside her airy Santa Fe studio. “It has more legs if I can get the viewer engaged. Making universal subject matter allows that to happen. That way, people can leave with more than they thought they would initially. There’s more than what they see on the surface.” Indeed: After a while, one notices new things in Hall’s paintings that didn’t seem to be there at first or second glance.
It’s hard to believe, then, that all the activity going on in her paintings occurs without any sort of sketch or map or even an outline of what she wants to do beforehand. “I don’t envision the painting before I do it, I just pick out a topic and jump in feet first,” confesses Hall. She does, however, spends plenty of time researching each series and just as many hours meditating upon her ideas. “Coming up with a theme is a good way for me to focus and to explore something more in depth,” she says. “And I hope my take on the subject is different from what some people would imagine.”
Hall might never have developed her unique take if it weren’t for the chain of events that defined her early career. Speaking from inside her sunny studio—a renovated garage that sits next to the house she and her husband had built for themselves in downtown Santa Fe two and a half years ago—she talks about the influence of the oil bust back in the late 1980s and the strange results of a certain career aptitude test…
Featured in July 2007
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