One of the most dynamic exhibitions in South Florida happened at the Coral Springs Museum of Art. Tampa-born artist Melissa Herrington, who now resides in Venice, California, has experimented during the past couple of decades with an exploration of a charming mix of color field and abstract expressionist painting techniques filled with light and spatial relationships that examine concepts of transformation, emergence, and life.
The works on view depicted an obvious love of structure and function all bundled together to generate exquisite floating compositions that appear to gently glide from side to side, like a misty storm in a technicolor theatre of purposeful ambiguity and inherent splendor. Some of the paintings take on a pictorial sense of deep space, where forms appear to drift in a sky charged with soft pastel molecular clouds. However, Herrington’s work basically is non-narrative, and evidence of recognizable motifs (such as extra-terrestrial shapes) are coincidental for a viewer to perceive. The strength of Melissa Herrington’s paintings is not only in her choice of sumptuous colors and tints but in her exuberant configurations that are perfectly balanced with a square.
Herrington’s bold and sensitive canvases seem to perform on many levels through her idiosyncratic, painterly, dreamlike, and handsome surfaces. Occasionally the works are accented with a distinctly single figurative contour outline that could produce a cubist constellation, counterbalancing her saturation of the raw canvas and offering an aesthetic illusion on numerous planes. Those canvases that pay strict attention to the cloud-like silhouettes, which seem effortless in their application, become dreamy and sensual as they magically fill a design with bravado and intuition. The early experimental works of Helen Frankenthaler, the undisputed inventor of the stained canvas, come to mind with some of Herrington’s works on view. She seems to have a knack for piecing together disparate flowing ambulatory shapes without an initial plan of action, preferring to allow her natural sensitivity for abstract compositions spiced with and characteristic color perception that invites the viewer on a short journey of sensations; touch and taste stimulating a keen sense compulsory viewer participation.
These works offered the viewer an enjoyable flight into unknown painterly galaxies of dynamic interplanetary shapes in an imaginative context that is saturated with earthy hues, from deep coffee browns and snippets of Payne’s gray to daps of harmonious blues reminiscent of bodies of water. These layouts are often accented with flicks and drips that tie the artist’s orbiting arrangements together in weightless non-narrative designs patterns that are confident and inherently stunning. Squint your eyes and you can almost imagine a first view of the unexplored universe as seen from the Hubble telescope light-years away and constructed by an accidental hurricane of galaxies whose velocity and effervescent vapors create their own hidden exhibition in the open sky.
As the spring season warms up in South Florida and the tropical plants come into full bloom, Melissa Herrington adds her own innovative vibrant acrylic landscape that is packed with organic colors and forms that seem to break through an invisible barrier as they fall into place like a well-planned garden of visual delights.
Herrington’s work proudly provides a unique and sensitive feminine color examination of the ever-changing nature of the female form that often is incorporated into her canvases. Many of the works have opulent transparency that allows Herrington to layer shapes and add dimension. In “Cerulean sky, a murmur of a love epistle,” the title offers a clue to the painting’s nomadic spirit. “In that twilight, so heavy through her midnight moment’s landscape” depicts Herrington’s offer of a space voyage into thin air, highlighted in shades of purple as if from the aftermath of a tropical storm. In the picture “Unfolding from her center (2),” the artist articulates a drawing that outlines a female profile that has become a familiar hallmark of Herrington’s oeuvre. “Unraveling the night. Sea sprayed shadows holy as pink skies” is a title that hints at the evening sky and beyond, perhaps even light-years away. Another engagingly beautiful painting is “Blooms a starry portal unfurled. the conjurer. the alcove,” where the title beckons to the outer reaches of our universe.
Melissa Herrington continues to take the viewer on a rewarding journey through her personal world of saturated colors and shapes, expanding in all directions as she ‘builds’ each painting. Judging from this enchanting show, her reputation is about to take a quantum leap in critical acclaim and aesthetic recognition.
For more information on the artist, visit melissaherrington.com
Bruce Helander is an artist who writes on art. He is a former White House Fellow of the National Endowment for the Arts and is a member of the Florida Artists Hall of Fame. As an artist, his work is in fifty museum collections, including the Whitney, Guggenheim, and The Met.
Melissa Herrington springs into orbit