Constructed Horizon 8

Ink on paper, 8×14′, 2010

Mark Chagall Museum, Belarus, March, 2011
Alexandria Museum of Art, 2014

Architecture is one way in which we control our environment. By providing shelter, we protect ourselves from nature. In urban settings, the skyline is interrupted by skyscrapers which swallow up space and dominate the view. While they provide a controlled environment for those who inhabit the spaces, they also dictate the placement of nature and the movement of living beings outside. Nature is sublimated by, or in some cases replaced with, buildings historically created by male architects. Their dominance not only makes a formal impression but also inspires ideas about the relationship between nature and culture.

For many years, while driving to my studio in downtown Los Angeles, I observed how the horizon seems to continually change due to construction. Looking out of my studio window I see fragments of buildings, such as “The Brewery” smokestack, across the 5 Freeway (Interstate 5) which appears to cut the sky in half. Driving around Los Angeles, as well as various other cities, I have also observed sharply edged buildings with multiple stories. They look like pyramids, aggressively cutting into space as they merge towards a vanishing point. I am reminded of the Tower of Babel which was built in an attempt to reach the heavens, and now making it seem like these constructions will continue into eternity.

I am impressed with the way nature adapts, particularly the same way that birds, in the absence of trees, utilize these man-made structures for their own purposes. They perch, nest, and leave their droppings without concern for those below. While evidence of their existence is only addressed when they are a nuisance, birds in this context are otherwise ignored, yet they leave their mark. Their droppings drip freely and disrupt the appearance of custom paint colors on high-end office spaces and lofts. Nature, while displaced, asserts its will on culture. As an artist I have become aware of this tendency and have attempted to literally assimilate this into my work.

I use a formula of bird droppings mixed with acrylic paint in order to lighten colors and to also create an awareness of that which would otherwise go undetected. In my paintings and drawings, informed by the environment, I incorporate fragments of different architectural styles into structural pyramids which appear to extend into space like constructed trees. Looking at the columned buildings of Le Corbusier, or the work of contemporary architects such as Will Bruder, John Friedman, or Greg Lynn, I have observed the structures at different angles and from multiple points of perspective. In my work I also use layers of Plexiglas, vellum, or other translucent materials, which reference the use of glass and plastics in contemporary architecture, allowing some degree of transparency. The perpetual construction of high-rise buildings conflicts with my emotions, yet these structures inspire my work, while the birds provide the final artistic stroke with their droppings.

Mela M Constructed Horizon 8