Artist Melissa Hutton, “You Can Never Go Back” At Hespe Gallery

by Admin on 10/18/2011


San Francisco Art Beat talked with artist Melissa Hutton at Hespe Gallery, where she is currently having a solo show of her beautifully colored, multi-layed mixed media artworks throughout the month of October, entitled “You Can Never Go Back.” Below, Melissa discusses her new work and the exciting directions she’s going in both  her art and life.

SFArtBeat: Let’s talk about the show here at Hespe Gallery, and the title, “You Can Never Go Back.”

Melissa Hutton: A lot of this work is new, and very personal. The title has to do with the relationship with my family and the past: trying to remember things and move on, but wanting to keep a memory. My grandfather died a few years ago, and so a lot of the imagery was taken from their house. These works have photographs I took when I went across country. The work I did a few years ago, a lot of the imagery I used to use wasn’t my own, and this now is all my own photography. What I usually do is I try to take what affects me and turn it into a more universal message. So hopefully these don’t come across as extremely personal but something people can relate to.


And how exactly do you execute the work? What’s the creative process?

There is a lot of layering and it’s a fairly involved process. I’ve been working with this medium for 10-12 years now. I think I’ve really perfected it. Years before, I was experimenting, but now I really am able to use the medium to do what I need it to do. I consider these like stage sets, the orginiality of them, too. I think the resin enables me to get that kind of surreal look. There is a reality to it: these strips of grass there are very graphic lines: it looks and almost feels like it is grass, but grass would never look that way. Some of my older work I used to embed these images having printed it out on this transparency, and then the resin was on top of that. With the newer works I discovered a new way of doing which I actually transfer the transparency directly into the resin and pull it off – except the color, it doesn’t work with color, but everything black and white is in the resin so there’s no extra layer of plastic. I actually found that out by accident, I lifted up one of the transparencies off the resin and I thought, “oh no!” But it was fine. I’ve always worked in a lot of different mediums, and in the work you can see that: the fence is actually a wood veneer, and there’s a strip of reflective tape. Really I consider these works more sculptures rather than paintings. As for the dripping, there’s not much you can do to control that, except being knowledgeable with dry times and where the drips go to and come from. The process also has to be very clean- I have a big bubble in my studio when I’m working, and there can’t be any dust!

Parts of the works are photographs, and then there are elements that are very painterly or drawn, almost a blend of reality and imagination.

I like to make certain images super-graphic. For example the road, I could never make that anything but a photograph. The yellow house is my house, and I love the yellow. I like the combination of the real and the unreal. Like these parking blocks {below}, they are really simple blocks of cement, and I think they’re more interesting if they’re just colored graphic images. These images are some of the first I’ve brought photographs of people into. These places are very lonely places, and so the people who are in these, I initially wasn’t going to do them photographically. Previously in my work the people wouldn’t have faces, I’d replace their faces with a material. But it’s interesting how my work really does work with my real life, because I’ve allowed more people into my life. Still, many are non-descript, and that’s not only because this was new, but also I didn’t want to be too personal with it.

You use a very colorful palate: turquoises, yellows, pinks bright optimistic colors, but your artwork’s subject matter is often of isolation, desolation and loneliness.

Well, I think the work continues to talk about that. A lot of the work I was doing before was very cloudy and gloomy the weather of the landscape often plays in to the mood of the work, too: I got away from that, and it was a very strong reaction I guess it was 2 years ago I started producing this work I just couldn’t do a cloudy sky anymore, and everything had to be clear. Things feel lighter these days for me, but there is a still loneliness, and maybe that will never go away for me, so it will always be lonely in my work.

Tell us a little about one of the paintings in the show.

{Painting below, entitled “Special Person”} These keys on the wall, they were all in the photograph. We went out when my grandfather died to clean the whole house out and we went out and they had been living there for 55-60 years in that same house, and she always had all these things on her wall, little tchotchkes: all the things she likes, all the things that remind her of whatever. And I took that photo, a series of photos and took some sections, and so this is a memory of what was once on the wall, and they’ll never be there again.

These paintings for me are time capsules, they record time. I went across country for 2 and a half months recently, and I’ve done a cross-country trip a few different times, and I thought to myself this place is going, it’s changing. There’s no farming out there, everyone has moved out–it’s sad.

You were a finalist to appear on the Bravo show, “A Work of Art: The Next Great Artist.” What was it like? Did that experience affect your process in anyway?

It was a great experience just to see how they do everything. I was in the last 60, and at one point I was asked to do a self portrait. When they asked me to complete different tasks in 7 days, it was a charge, a high—just busting ass on this piece and figuring out different ways of doing things. To have to do a self-portrait is fine– but to be forced into thinking about your intent? It’s good for those times when you have to re-evaluate and think okay, what am I doing, what do I want to be? And they made you talk about the work, and do a talk about what you did, develop a video about yourself, it was a good process for me to get me to another place.

“You Can Never Go Back” Mixed Media Work by Melissa Hutton is a Hespe Gallery, 251 Post Street until October 29.