By Virginia Villari
A couple of days ago Miami-based, multi-media artist Melanie Prapopoulos invited me for a studio visit at her atelier in the downtown area of the city. When I arrived I was impressed by the unique location: Melanie’s studio is a secluded section in a multi-story garage, from which you can have a pretty good, wide view of the city, especially when there are no cars parked.
Melanie is a painter, a mixed media creator and a literature teacher. Her art is gentle and bold at the same time. Either through a variegated use of color or through recyclable materials she wishes to enhance viewers’ perceptive experience and engage them in a reflection on the flaws and absurd standards of our society…with a touch of irony.
V.V. How would you define yourself as an artist?
M.P. As an artist, I feel that I have a certain obligation to my work and to those who view it. I hope for my work to be something that will stimulate thought. I work in the abstract because I feel that that allows me to step away from the text and allows the viewer to have their own subjective experience, according to their perceptions and based upon their personality. I am also interested in presenting psychological platforms through color and reaction to color – I have often found that one work will affect a viewer on a completely different plane compared to what I’ve intended and this is a good thing as I can never be the only voice in my work. Lately, I’ve begun to believe that I need to combine the ugly with the beautiful – as this is part of life – and this has resulted in my work becoming more society orientated, by pointing out some fallacies of our society and its illusion of being good and functioning.
V.V. Does your Greek heritage emerge from your work?
M.P. I am not sure if my Greek heritage emerges, though I am the great niece of one of Greece’s most famous artists: painter E. Thomopoulos, who focused mainly on landscapes and vignettes of life in the early 1900’s. What I do owe to Greece is the freedom to begin this journey – my first painting was in Greece. Greece allowed me to slow down and begin this journey and Greece inspired me through its light. I think most of my inspiration began the first time I saw the work of Goya and Velasquez – I think it is from them that I feel the closest connection – not that my work is like theirs, but I love light as does Velasquez and I want to comment on my society as does Goya. These two masters led me then towards an understanding of Wilfredo Lam and Picasso – as these two incorporate their perception of things that questions, again, what is around them and perception.
V.V. What do you think of the Miami art scene?
M.P. This question is not one for me, for many reasons: I am first and foremost completely out of the art market scene, here. I think this market is still too young and has yet to really mature and have a voice. I grew up and was educated in New York and there’s just no comparison between the two cities. I do hope that the PAMM will do a lot to change that. But every year I do look forward to Basel, even if I do not show; just being able to see the voices of artists from around the world is amazing.
V.V. How/where do you find inspiration for your pieces?
M.P. My inspiration comes from what I see around me and what I encounter in class, being a literature professor. Before moving to Miami, and while in Greece, all I was concerned with was music, mood, color and dance as inspiration. But now that I am here, I see that the level of awareness has been reduced to appearance. There is no knowledge of the past or of the consequences of the present. I see inequality, ignorance, superficiality and I am using these mentalities and coupling them with ideas of beauty to highlight the absence of equality, knowledge and reality.
V.V. Your paintings and assemblages show a various and versatile use of colors and eclectic materials: what do you seek to express through those means?
M.P. This continues the above. Basically what I am trying to do is to stimulate an awareness of society’s superficial obsessions with youth, beauty and materialism. These are also things that I find myself caught up in…and I hate that! I think it all somehow boils down to an attempt to say “ I am ok, you are ok, we don’t need to be more than we are – everyone should accept each other as we are – not the way society is conditioning us to be.”