Satirical painter Sean Mellyn (pronounced mehl-ihn) has lived and worked in New York City for nearly 40 years. He graduated from Pratt Institute in the mid-1980s during the prevailing punk, drag and drug culture, the growing AIDS crisis, and the ascendancy of its fear-filled, reactionary conservatism. The high and low of the moment was not lost on the artist’s early development, where the iconic vocabulary he built at that time would continue throughout his career, reformulating with ever-changing times.
The representational imagery in Mellyn’s paintings, drawings and prints fall into thematic groups that all symbolize the role of the artist as mirror of the world. Comic or romantic illustrations of everyday objects, portraiture or landscapes bely deeper criticisms of political or social power dynamics. Precisely rendered, the artist’s personal lexicon includes lightbulbs, eyes, paper bags, eggs, nests, snowmen, pigs and flowers. Many images are lifted from archetypal American magazines or children’s coloring books, fostering the backdrop of overbearing purist ideology or oppressive perfection. Humor and beauty first present, then unfold with closer inspection into radical dreamscapes where three-dimensional cigars protrude from glory holes, Monet dons a pompadour, birch trees see, and children with mixed-up faces tend to animals on a farm.