Feature Articles

November 2011

Barton College in Wilson, NC, Features Works by D.W. Mellor

Barton College in Wilson, NC, will present the exhibit, Body of Work, featuring works by acclaimed photographer D.W. Mellor, on view in the Barton Art Galleries, from Nov. 13 through Dec. 12, 2011. A reception will be held on Nov. 13, from 4-6pm.

A magazine and fine-art photographer from Philadelphia, PA, Mellor’s skillfully executed black and white photographs on exhibit will include still lifes, portraits, assemblages, nudes, and abstracts that are intriguing allegorical sequences. Boston born master photographer Paul Caponigro describes Mellor’s still lifes as “feasts” – “radiating a somber air of mystery.” “His dexterity with symbols and intellectual concepts lets him tell a mysterious story in a compelling way,” explained Michael More, of Camera Arts in his 2004 “Writing with Light” article.

Through meticulously and classically arranged “in situ” images, contrasting with their simplistic grey or white backdrops, Mellor provides luscious tonalities that pay homage to Dutch and Flemish Old Master paintings as they capture fleeting moments. “The sheer power of scrutiny - the act of intensely looking - is a manner of possession,” shared Mellor. “These images are possessions of possessions.”

A former commercial photographer, professor, photography collector, and gallery director before moving to fine art photography, Mellor, now a world traveler, arranges gathered objects discovered within a particular foreign country to produce still-life travel photographs. He adds, “Working away for a month at a time in foreign apartments, cities such as Prague, London, Amsterdam, Rome, Venice, Florence, I conjured up these still lives from a borrowed or purchased table, different backgrounds, and found objects. Although the imagery is not evocative of any individual city, each city has its own character and charm, influencing the work. Still life images are mysterious and magical — mysterious in the subtlety of composition, the complexity of perspective, and the magic in the illusionary verisimilitude of the images.”

The Barton exhibition also showcases Mellor’s photographic assemblages and abstracts. Writer Cate McQuaid of The Boston Globe shared, “Mellor delights in how different surfaces reflect or soak up light: crystal, pewter, glass. Photography literally means the writing of light, and Mellor practices this with his materials and his techniques.” Mellor portrays his fabricated assemblages as “collages, combining old master etchings, found objects, wood or metal backgrounds that are photographed with an 8x10 camera for extreme resolution. They are visual deceptions, revealing themselves in time.”

Masterfully mesmerizing textures and sensual forms are depicted in Mellor’s 14 nudes that range from abstracted to tension filled compositions. For Mellor, the nudes provide a means for “exploring the most sensual but difficult of subject matter: mysterious shapes, dark inferences and white forms. These edgy and ambiguous imagery reference pornography and its conventions, are not about power or sex but a design and decoration.”

In his artist statement, Mellor shares that the photographic abstracts are produced with “hand-shaped form core photographed with a 4x5 camera against a canvas background, one light source and a rope. Several hundred different negatives were realized. In the darkroom, selecting different combinations of two or three negatives produce unique prints from the sandwiched negatives.”

Mellor is also exhibiting a selection of 10 photographs from his “The Garvey Series” that portrays South Philadelphia resident Tom Garvey. This collaboration between Mellor and Garvey, spanning 30 years, reveals the subject’s character with the same carefully preserved dynamic as Mellor’s “in situ” images. In describing his “Garvey” work, Mellor wrote, “Once a year for 30 years, I photographed this enigmatic man. On the day of photography, Tom would be prepared with his own choice of personally made clothing or prop. All of the images were taken within his property or immediate neighborhood. In those 30 years, Garvey showed me strength, vulnerability, feistiness, goofiness, humor, strangeness, and nobility. His character emerges vividly, a strong willed, independent bohemian.”

Mellor has had numerous solo exhibitions, and his photographs are in the permanent collections of major museums including the Center for Creative Photography, Tucson, Arizona, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Museo National de Bellas Artes in Buenos Aires, Argentina. His first book, In Situ, was published in 2004.

Mellor will present a lecture on his work immediately following the opening reception. The lecture is open only to members of the Barton Friends of Visual Arts. For membership, please call 252/399-6357, or join the Friends of Visual Arts at the event.

For further information check our NC Institutional Gallery listings, contact Susan Fecho, chair of the Department of Art and Design, at 252/399-6480 or e-mail to (sfecho@barton.edu).

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