"Fine" art: Malone is inoffensive at Mudhouse
During my college days, I once stumbled home from a party, grabbed a bowl of pasta from the fridge, woke up my roommate (I was obnoxious that way), and then plopped onto my futon to tell her, between bites, about running into an ex-boyfriend who was just back from a study-abroad program. She yawned and asked, “So, how was that?”
“'Fine'? You woke me up for Ã¢â?¬Ë?fine’?”
“Yeah, fine,” I said, “Not good. Not bad. But fine.” Not-good-not-bad-but-fine instantly became a running joke between us that continues to this day.
And that’s what sprang to mind when I stopped into Mudhouse to see Melissa Malone’s paintings. Consisting of six acrylic-on-canvas realistic works–three depicting farm animals, three portraying women –the show is neither a wow nor a yawn.
Malone’s painting selection is an odd mix that extends beyond the disjointed subject matter. Two large chicken-focused works use saturated colors to good effect. The remaining four pieces, however, are muted bordering on drab, painted in sepia tones or dulled-down hues. Why Malone chose to show these six works together is a mystery.
Nevertheless, she is clearly developing a distinctive painting style. In her press release, Malone writes, “I am a proponent of negative space and the time and skill it takes to blend a solid color that gives a true sense of depth.” Although I disagree her paintings offer much in the way of “depth”– their near-flatness is a distinctive trait– Malone’s use of featureless, monotone backgrounds is interesting.
She also reveals an engaging eye for composition in several works. For instance, in “Judy,” Malone places the context-less figure off-center, sitting with her back to the viewer, one bare foot tucked under her hips, so that the woman’s other leg extends out of the frame. In “Rooster,” three fowl occupy the foreground in the lower right corner, while a few tiny red-sided farm buildings dot the landscape in the distance on the left. Otherwise, the painting is an expanse of green pasture and cloudless blue sky.
By far, the most successful work in the show is “Chickens.” Here Malone combines her offbeat compositional approach with a rich palette. Three beautifully rendered chickens with brilliant red combs peck amid velvety green leaves in the foreground, while warped iron bars give vertical interest to an even, deep teal background.
Certainly better than a lot of art around town, all in all, Malone’s work is fine, not-good-not-bad-but-fine.
Melissa Malone's paintings are on view at Mudhouse through February 2. 213 W. Main St. on the Downtown Mall. 984-6833.