Firehouse Gallery Shows Michelle Mendez Works Based on Film Noir

Showing September 13 – October 8, 2017 at the Firehouse Theater Gallery in Newburyport, MA.  An Artist Reception will be held on September 23, from 3-5:00pm.  Darkly dramatic self-portraits of the artist within reimagined “film stills” from the Sherlock Holmes film noir series explore variant interpretations of female clichés and stereotypes.

 

A Boston native, Michelle C. Mendez graduated from Boston University College of Fine Arts with a Master’s Degree in Visual Arts in 1990. She has also studied art and painting at Queens College (the Caumsett Landscape Painting Program); Bridgewater State College; JSS in Civita di Castellana (Italy); Innemoire Lodge, Isle of Mull (Scotland); and Truro Center for the Arts. She has traveled to England, Scotland, France, Italy, and China to study art and paint. For a time, she enjoyed painting roof top cityscapes from her studio in Boston’s Fort Point Artist Community; was employed at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts in the conservation lab and development office; and taught visual arts variously at Walpole High School, Newbury College, and for the MIT Interim Program.

Since 2003, she has taught visual arts at Canton High School where she devotes her energies teaching young adults AP drawing, painting, computer art and design, and ceramics. Over the years, Mendez has shown in many group shows and solo exhibits in the Boston area including Newton Public Library; Cambridge Art Association; and Fort Point Channel. Her work was chosen by Nell Blaine for an exhibit in New York.

Currently, inspired by Cindy Sherman’s “Film Still” series and in homage to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Mendez has created her Sherlock Series of oil paintings on tar paper based on the film noir series. Portraying herself as invented characters within “film stills” alongside appropriated images of Sherlock Holmes as played by the film actor, Basil Rathbone, Mendez seeks to transform these scenes and images in order to explore novel meanings about relationships. Aesthetically, adds Mendez, “the ‘scene’ and tonal palette are reminiscent of the large scale monochromatic figure painter Mark Tansey and lonely figurative paintings of Edward Hopper.”

Artist Statement:

“While recovering from mild TBI in 2014, I found that my restored practice of painting was calming and healing. Initially, while working with a cognitive therapist at Spaulding Rehabilitation Center Wellesley, I enjoyed deductive reasoning exercises. This led me to immerse myself in Sir Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes mysteries. I was already caught in the cultural obsession with Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayal of Holmes in the British television crime drama, ‘Sherlock,’ yet I found them visually confusing and painful to follow. Then I found the 5 DVD set of original Sherlock Holmes movies starring Basil Rathbone. The old films noirs were slower paced and carefully crafted. I just wanted to be in those movies as a crime sleuth with the debonair Basil Rathbone!

I set up a visual parlance with Basil’s Sherlock Holmes and myself using my iPad camera. Freezing the DVD movie stills, and throwing on hats, scarves, jackets and lipstick as props, I ‘shot’ film stills of myself and the TV screen with Basil Rathbone. I began to think compositionally again. In particular, Cindy Sherman’s ‘Film Still’ Series has inspired me to continue this adventure. I began to paint the ‘film still’ scenes while reflecting on longing and relationships from a woman’s perspective. My character role varies in each film depending on the scene: sometimes a female Watsonesque character, like Lucy Liu in the TV drama series, ‘Elementary’; sometimes an urgent or a frightened client; sometimes his nemesis, ‘The Woman,’ Irene Adler; and, sometimes I use the scene to capture the attraction between a man and a woman that has little to do with Sherlock Holmes. I enjoy the irony that Sherlock Holmes cared little for the ‘weaker sex.’ This allows me the freedom to invent new narratives and new meaning with existing film images. While designing and painting, I enjoy the large dark shapes and tonalities of Degas portraits and quirky shapes of Van Gogh’s as well as the dark portraits of Tintoretto, Titan and du Zurbaran.” (Mendez)

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