Acrylic Reveries: An Interview with LA Artist Melissa Dyanne

Melissa Dyanne, Redhanded, 2018

(LA Trend) — With no shortage of filmmakers, musicians, and artists, it’s no secret why Los Angeles is one of the top creative capitals of the world. And while the celebrities are the ones who attract the bulk of the attention, we here at LA Trend want to highlight some of the lesser-known creators who really make the City of Angels a global artistic hub.

In this installment, we talk with visual artist Melissa Dyanne, who specializes in paintings, drawings, and mixed media artworks.

Melissa has had an impressive career in the arts, along with an equally impressive educational background to back it up; she earned her BFA in 2006 from the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington and her MFA in 2008 from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her work has been showcased in an expansive array of galleries and cultural institutions around the country and abroad, including:

  • Bronx Art Center, Bronx, NY
  • Dan Graham Gallery, LA
  • Fowler Arts Collective, Brooklyn, NY
  • Roos Arts, Rosendale, NY
  • Camden County College, Camden, NJ
  • Frank Taal, Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • JAG fine art Philadelphia, PA
  • Kirkland Art Center, Kirkland, WA

Judging by her sterling academic credentials and her exceptional list of gallery appearances, it is fair to say that Melissa was put on this earth to create, something she herself probably knew from an early age.

“I’ve been making art since I was very young as a means of escape. Eventually, that turned into a form of personal validation because I was noticeably good at it. It’s only been later in life (I’d say the last 10 years) where I’d consider it my profession as well as something I do that serves a larger purpose. There’s not one event or idea that I can point to that made the shift, it was more of an evolution.”

Melissa’s work draws from a wide range of sources, like William Kentridge, Richard Diebenkorn, John William Waterhouse, Sally Mann, Greek mythology, pop culture, color, nature, dreams, animals, and even the human condition.

Eclectic, yes, but Melissa has managed to transform this offbeat mélange of influences into works that are both accessible and profound. Beneath the soothing colors and pleasing shapes is an emotional complexity, an introspection that only deepens upon repeat viewings. Their whimsy is tempered by contemplation and they are hopeful without being saccharine. The subjects come from the real world; the emotion, from raw experience; and the execution, straight from the dreamscape. Stating that she wants to be known for “beautiful, ethereal artwork that challenges your psyche”, a brief gaze at her work is enough to confirm that Melissa is well on her way to achieving her goal.

“I’m pretty self-reflective in what I make, so what I’m hoping to achieve is a connection to my viewers. I think my honesty is relatable, so any narrative I present that is specific to my experiences has the ability to touch on greater philosophical awareness as well.”

Like all great artists, Melissa sees the world as it is and responds accordingly with her work. And with the turbulence that the world is currently going through, her more recent projects have taken on a slightly more somber tone.

“I see more confusion and anxiety with my subjects, so I’m sure the outside chaos adds to that. Some of the paintings are a bit darker subject-wise than I normally paint. Surely all the mayhem around informs and influences this shift.”

However, the doom-and-gloom of the times isn’t enough to stop Melissa from dreaming big and reaching for higher artistic ground.

“I enjoy working both physically and digitally, so I’d love the time and space to really combine the two. I’d love to create a painting series that’s also an animated painting that can be either projected on canvas (so a central image with moving parts) or a mini film. This could be accompanied by a large scale installation.”

Also, residing in Los Angeles means Melissa has easy access to an endless well of sights and sounds to inspire her craft. From the grime to the elegance, the natural to the man-made, Melissa views LA’s vast tapestry of city life and wildlife as a wellspring of material waiting to be reimagined and reinterpreted.

“The light and colors…the grittiness of the city, which can be a struggle at times. I focus on people co-mingling with nature often, so I think I’ve found every wild park, trail, pond, and bird sanctuary this city has to offer to use as settings for my images. There’s an abundance of nature in LA which is an interesting contrast to the harshness of the city.”

While Los Angeles is facing its share of challenges, just like almost every other major city at the moment, Melissa still sees a lot of hope for the local art scene.

“I think it will bounce back robustly since there is so much outdoor, open space that can be utilized without the weather getting in the way. I also think it’s an innovative art scene that doesn’t stick too closely to tradition, so some of the new genres that will be necessary going forward can thrive here.”

Whatever problems LA is currently struggling through, its creative class is one that has a long history of overcoming hurdles and breaking new ground in the process, only to emerge more vibrant and vital than before.

Still, the LA art scene is not without some difficulties that need to be navigated, especially for aspiring artists hoping to make their mark in the local creative community. Luckily, Melissa has some sage wisdom for artists looking to establish themselves in the area:

“I’m still relatively new to the LA art scene, but pre-COVID I’d say go to events/openings and meet artists in the community. Gallery shows are hard to get, but collabs and pop-ups with like-minded artists are not so difficult so it guarantees your making work and getting it out there.”

And in true maverick fashion, Melissa has some contrarian advice for artists trying to create for a living:

“Don’t go to grad school!!! (Ha!) But seriously, be in it for the long haul, instant success is rarely a thing, and no, you’re not going to love what you do all the time, it’s still a job (and don’t go to grad school…wink-wink).”

Melissa Dyanne currently teaches online art classes at the Brentwood Art Center. Be sure to follow her on Twitter and Instagram. Go to her official website for samples of her work and to check out her shop.

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Joe Garza | Editor

Joe Garza is an LA-based writer and musician. With a deep passion for the arts, his interests include screenwriting, reading, composing, and playing guitar and piano.

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