Capturing slices of American landscapes in vivid bursts of color, Melissa Chandon’s paintings resemble a charmed travelogue. Houses rest on bright green lawns beneath sunny skies; vintage cars putter down deserted highways shaded with palm trees. Chandon credits childhood road trips for her love of classic Americana: “To this day, I find roadside vernacular fascinating – cars, gas stations, motels, billboard signs – and I feel it is important to document this era before it disappears.”
Though they seem like shards of memories and dreams, Chandon’s images are rooted in real life. She travels backroads and small towns, photographing scenes emblematic of this vanishing America, before painting her imaginative translations onto birch panes. A classically trained artist, she guides her work through a multi-phase process incorporating preliminary sketches, underpainting, and varnishing. The interplay of shadow and light is central to her work: Often, it’s the position of a shadow that first draws her to an image. In the finished paintings, shadows lend a crucial graphic element – an arrangement of dark geometrical forms that provides subtle but powerful structure.
Chandon counts among her influences Wayne Thiebaud, David Hockney, Edward Hopper and Richard Diebenkorn – artists who are likewise enthralled with the American aesthetic. Thiebaud, who shares Chandon’s passion for a lively, delectable palette and arresting compositions, has noted that her “effective synthesis of abstract and representational elements” give her works “an intensity and raw graphic power to behold.” Even at their most dreamlike and meditative, Chandon’s paintings pack an indisputable punch.
Chandon has exhibited her work at the Center for Contemporary Art, Sacramento; the Richard L. Nelson Gallery at the University of California, Davis; and Art Santa Fe, among many others. In addition to corporate and notable private collections, her art is included in the Morris Graves Museum, Morgan Flagg Collection at the de Young Museum