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Melville explores matters of life and death

by Alex Ashe

‘ alexa@yesweekly.com

On one wall, a factory door emerges from a cloud. Across the room, a red, metallic flower petal bursts through the canvas. In between the paintings stands a full-scale sculpture of a deer. Directly above it, replica antlers hang from the ceiling on strings. Colored triangles garnish the installation’s black floor.

Forgive me for not recognizing the theme until I talked to the artist. “The concept is about our inevitable impermanence and using awareness of death as motivation to live life to the fullest,” said Kelsey Melville, a Chapel Hill-based multimedia artist.

As part of the First Friday Gallery Hop, Winston-Salem’s Delurk Gallery opened its June exhibit, which features Melville’s work alongside pieces from several of the Delurk collective’s 14 artists, including Jennifer O’Kelly, whose paintings are also prominently showcased.

The gallery, located next door to 6th & Vine in the space formerly occupied by Urban Artworks, features mainly contemporary art while aiming to exclusively display work that’s new to the area.

“A lot of times you see a lot of the same artists showing the same work from gallery to gallery,” said Delurk member Chad Beroth. “We try to show work that hasn’t been shown before in the Winston arts community.”

Melville’s installation, partially walled off from the rest of the gallery, mainly consists of unframed, mixed-media paintings that vary in size but share geometric traits. Many of the pieces feature a triangular pattern juxtaposed with either paint drips or a different pattern altogether.

The vibrant designs flow onto the sides of the canvas, giving the pieces a 3-D aspect. Each painting takes on a new light when observed from various angles.

“This installation is about the infinite paths you can take throughout life,” Melville said. “The paintings symbolize the myriad paths, while the deer symbolizes mortal being.”

Melville constructed the deer sculpture from wire and wicker, binding it with fabric that she stripped and dyed herself. She carved the antlers from clay and painted them white for the sake of realism.

“Deer shed their antlers throughout life, which symbolizes resurgence, rebirth and revitalization,” Melville said. “I admire the deer and how it gracefully adapts to change and transformation throughout life.”

O’Kelly’s featured work is more explicit thematically, portraying more tangible subject matter. Each painting in the collection, entitled Knot Portraits; Friction at Work, depicts objects connected to some type of rope, cord, line, sinew or cable. The collection is designed to emphasize the importance of these materials and their knots in controlling friction. Some of the brushstrokes in O’Kelly’s acrylic paintings are particularly eye-catching, adding touches of color into unexpected spots.

Other collective members display some especially striking pieces, as well. The crayon doodles in Beroth’s featured work go a long way in enhancing its youthful spirit. Molly Simpson’s “Lorca por Lorca,” a huge mixed-media painting, shows a blindfolded, scantily-clad woman in a meadow being struck in the back by a bullet, causing her to release a heap of leaves into the air. One of two displayed paintings from Simpson’s four-part “Firing Squad” series, it’s quite a breathtaking piece, despite the extremely grim subject matter.

If Zack Trainor’s acrylic painting “Remain Hidden” isn’t the exhibit’s most intriguing piece, it’s certainly its most cryptic. The abstract composition is composed of brushstrokes that vary in color and intensity. It’s an equivocal painting, to be sure, but it seems to depict shadowy figures and obscured facial features. The paint drips from an eye-shaped black spot convey an image of a crying face, one that somewhat resembles the theater mask associated with tragedy.

WANNA go?

Delurk Gallery; 207 W 6th St, Winston-Salem; 336.486.3444; delurkgallery.com

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