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Art Review - "Just Bury It"

Blogs and Columns
Posted by LewisvilleTexan on 2016/4/30 10:14:10 (2988 reads)

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By Melody Vaughan

You rarely hear anyone exclaim their love for construction projects. Especially highway projects. Especially in their community. We tend to focus on the negative symptoms: increases in travel time, familiar commuter routes in constant flux, and heightened stress of those already short on time. Some remain selfish in their view of community improvement and expansion.

While many construction projects run far past proposed deadlines, and it seems the benefits will never come, it is not completely impossible to see through the present mess. That is the task of those with vision, challenged with allocating funds for expansion and beautification.

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Lithograph by Melody Vaughan
The collaborative action of planning, debating, changing, and approving ideas and plans requires a spectrum of input, a wide swath of opinion and expertise. The public is left to judge the manifestation of citywide projects with cultural concerns, personal squabble, neighborhood image, and a laundry list of filters by which to judge success.

Artists, on the other hand, as both a varied and specific demographic of the population, see the process differently. Not to say they don’t also share similar concerns, but with an added sensitivity for aesthetic context.

This is the case with Melody Vaughan, artist and printmaker from Nashville, TN. Melody is currently a Teaching Fellow and Masters of Fine Arts candidate at The University of North Texas in Denton. Her MFA exhibit, “Just Bury It,” is currently on display at the MCL Grand Theater Art Gallery through April 30.

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Lithograph by Melody Vaughan
I viewed Vaughan’s work on Wednesday around 4:30 p.m. The gallery is open until 5 p.m., and I viewed Vaughan’s work with little traffic or distraction. I had no previous knowledge of her work (or the exhibit specifically) other than the title, which as art show titles go, can be informative or at least intriguing. The latter was the case this time. I was curious what or whom was to be buried. And why the direct command to just bury it?

Upon entering the gallery, I was confronted with three of her lithograph prints on my right: disjointed areas of highly detailed images of dwellings and nature overlapped with sparse geometric negative space. I began to understand the artist’s intent, or at least what was to be buried. The prints are framed behind glass, which made photographing them for this review difficult due to reflections of light and myself. Five more prints of the same style/series were discovered along the opposite wall of the gallery. Pictured to the left is one of those eight prints.

I was taken aback by both the amount of detail and the composition of the prints; she is clearly skilled in draftsmanship and printmaking.

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By Melody Vaughan
Vaughan’s visual investigation of infrastructure sprawl is compelling. Her limited use of color and reliance on drab tones furthers her troubled view of growth and regrowth of superficial environments at the expense of natural ones. She states in her artist statement, “My artistic investigation originates from a sensitivity to the disruption of pristine nature.” She continues to expand her investigation by calling to task our collective desire for new, shiny, homogenized suburban spaces.

Definition: Lithography is printing technology that traditionally utilizes a limestone or metal plate, oil or wax drawing, acid and gum arabic mixture, water, and ink. The acid etches the areas not protected by the oily drawing when applied on the surface of the stone or metal. Water is then wiped over the surface and retained in the etched areas. Oil-based ink is then applied, which is repelled by the water and restricted to the oily drawing. The image is then transferred to paper. There are several variations of this process.
But, don’t limit her work to a simple statement of how man is destroying the earth with architectural and civic growth; her work is also a documentation of how spaces might evolve over time. It is in a sense an archeological exploration through drawing and printmaking of how layers of past existence inform and construct new layers of existence. Where one site is demolished and eliminated from view, the impact of its life is embedded into both the physical and cultural landscape.

Eleven unframed drawings are hung upon the longest wall of the gallery. The drawings appear to be sustained studies of roadside construction. They are reminiscent of how this type of highway construction appears out the passenger window while traveling down I-35. Quick and bold line work with just enough color, detail, and texture to inform the viewer these are indeed actual scenes and not constructed realities. These pieces provide a needed balance to the rest of the work in the show. They refuse to be ignored and give the viewer who might prefer more realistic and relatable work a chance to fully engage with the show.

Another aspect of her exploration of both actual and conceptual layered environments is realized in my favorite piece of the show. The drawing presents an excavator, dead-center, moving vigorously as it reshapes the earth. The chaos created by its implied movement is captivating. It reminds me of a raucous rock show or the uncontrolled tantrum of a toddler, both of which are formidable forces. She captures the vigor of earthly disfigurement by employing bold mark-making and eraser-drawn line work in the background. The machine reaches with authority into the sky and down below the horizon and in all angles in between.

I found myself standing in front of this piece the longest, imaging the sound and smells of such an event. I’m drawn to compelling work that can hold my gaze, especially in a fragmented and clip-driven post-modern world; this work did just that.

Melody Vaughan’s work is aptly provocative and timely for the city of Lewisville and surrounding areas. She visually realizes some of the frustration, disappointment, sadness, hope, and excitement many of us feel as we traverse the area. She presents the viewer with a spectrum of imagery from stills reminiscent of the landscape along I-35 to disjointed and overlapping glimpses of the present and time past. Anyone living in the area will feel an immediate connection and appreciation for Vaughan’s work.

Photos by David Bearden

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