Friday, January 18, 2013

A Studio Visit with Melissa Staiger by Suzanne Bennett

My visit with Melissa Staiger wasn’t a ‘studio visit’ per say; we met at the Janet Kurnatowski Gallery on Norman Avenue in Greenpoint where Melissa was having a solo show entitled “Triangle Works”. Stepping down into the gallery on a sunny brisk Saturday morning, I was instantly taken by how well the paintings occupied the space. The dense, colorful paintings looked powerful on the stark white walls – the contrast seemed to satisfy both the works and the room itself.

The paintings embody certain themes that have preoccupied Melissa over the past few years – triangles and the dynamism of geometry and color.  This group however was more bold and stark than work I’d seen before. The compositions were larger, the use of lines minimized. They were composed deep reds, blues, blacks & greens. The nuanced and idyllic quality of some of Melissa’s earlier works was not evident here. In fact there was an aggressive quality to these paintings – I likened them to teeth in some cosmic maw.

Melissa and I discussed these aspects of the recent work – she said she was interested in moving into new territory, in pushing boundaries, both in herself and on the canvas. Her previous approach had been rather rigid, guided by a set of rules she set for herself. With these recent paintings, she had relaxed the rules and was letting intuition guide the paintings more in regards to color and space. She found relief in this. She also talked about the associations between math, geometry and cosmic forces. Melissa’s other career is doing body/energy work and we talked about some of the grand themes that guide both holistic healing and painting – movement, the balance of positive and negative, the engagement of both intuition and knowledge.

What I really liked about this recent direction in her work is that she was not afraid to go bold – the paintings do not rest quietly in some pleasant place, they are right in your face, even a bit difficult to absorb, especially on first encounter. There is little respite in all those hard lines and deep sharp points. But there is a life force there - they are in dialogue with both the angels and the demons and they still manage to keep their calm.
The more you look, the more the sharpness attenuates and you feel the space between the shapes open up, beckoning you in to a new kind of thought, a new kind of balance.