The Metro Scene

Artist Melissa Tubbs

Art is Life

Melissa Tubbs has spent her professional life doing black and white drawings. When she talks about the lack of color in her work she explains that, “because most artists work in color, I want to be more original than that, and help people see the inner workings, the structure of a piece. So for me, no color for the present.”

 

In Melissa’s drawings there may be no color but there is a heavy load of infinite patience and highly skilled hand and eye. Imagine creating a whole world with just little markings of black ink and short lines. And some times large shadows to create depth and perspective and drama. With Melissa explaining, the role of shade and shadow becomes of major importance because shadows give the drawing a kind of electrical charge it otherwise lacks. After her show at Stonehenge in the early part of April she is busy now preparing 25 little 6” X 8” or 8” X 10” black and white paintings for sale to commemorate the bicentennial of

Alabama’s statehood. “These small paintings are relatively cheap and don’t occupy much space, so their size might make them attractive to tourists. I want to illustrate buildings or homes so that people will say, ‘oh, I’ve been here a hundred times and I never saw that before.’ I want to help people SEE. But see in a special kind of way, with the perspective of a child.”

Since abstract art in its various forms appears more and more in our lives Melissa has a very personal response to that art form. “Most human beings need connections and relationships. For me, abstract art takes realism out of art and substitutes bits and pieces, which the artist then draws and makes into a painting. But that’s hard to relate to. Sometimes in abstract art you can find colors you like but in general I tend to turn away from something I cannot feel emotionally connected to.” She believes that since an artist can’t work in every medium — unless they’re Picasso — she just prefers to stick to her own specialty.

For the interview in this magazine Tubbs is casually dressed, seated in her Cloverdale apartment which is full of books and pieces of furniture rescued from her parents’ former home. As the conversation meanders along she makes sweeping gestures to illustrate her remarks, drawing pictures in the air. She talks quite convincingly about Montgomery’s being a place where artists feel supported and admired. She believes that they can make an adequate living if they are willing to work on a twopronged track: produce a beautiful object (their art) and at the same time, act like a businessman.

Unless they have a rich husband, artists will have to hustle. They will have to buy food, have to pay taxes, have to create a cash flow for the rent, have to work hard and build a career. Otherwise, they will be the classic starving artist if they are not willing to do all the necessary scut work, because to keep customers coming back they must project the impression that business practices are ruling here. In other words, come down from that high spiritual plain where they wait for their muse, and remember to take out the trash.

Melissa points out that art is being used in many ways both inside and outside the museum. If the headquarters of a corporation are in a big city, often middle management is sent to study paintings in the various museums. It turns out that solving problems in a painting can be useful in solving problems in the business world, such as developing perspective, finding the central point in negotiations, or what can be pushed into the background as being less important. “Using art to teach other subjects in schools is now widely practiced,” she says. “Research seems to show that studying paintings helps with architecture, with figures in math such as angles or circles, or social studies with paintings illustrating historical events, Goya with Napoleon’s invasion of Spain, George Washington crossing the Delaware. And, of course, with photography, the closest one of all.”

One dilemma painters often confront is to analyze what art in any of its forms does for them? Tubbs has found the answer, at least for her. “For a long time I’ve been convinced that all human beings have a need for beauty in their lives. And I also feel that God put me on this earth to see beauty in unexpected places: in the shadow cast by a tree, in the angle of a roof above an ordinary house, in the curve of a bridge sailing over a stream. Many people need help in enjoying that kind of beauty, and that’s where my drawings can be helpful. Because they tie in with an old saying that art is not what the artist sees but what he can make others see. I want to help with that.”

 

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