Elizabeth Rhodes
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Portals and Prophecies: An Interview with Melinda Laszczynski

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Before the opening of Melinda Laszczynski‘s latest solo exhibition, Portals and Prophecies, at Cardoza Fine Art on Friday, I had the chance to catch up with the Houston-based artist. The exhibition comes on the heels of the 30-year-old artist’s recent solo shows at galleryHOMELAND and Matchbox Gallery and just prior to Laszczynski’s upcoming residency at Vermont Studio Center.

FPH: What inspired the title of your exhibition?

Melinda Laszczynski: So, the paintings I’ve been making with shiny vinyl film, I’ve been thinking about them as portals for a while. I’ve probably been making them for about a year — since I finished grad school — and they feel very ominous and like you can enter them. I wanted a pretty simple title because sometimes my titles are kind of esoteric and I wanted something really straight forward. I’ve been thinking a lot about prophecies in painting and art and originally was thinking about it as painting versus sculpture. Then I decided to just show paintings, but a lot of the smaller paintings are very sculptural. I’m using paint skins and a lot of caked-on paint. I think [the title] maybe sounds more serious than it should.

FPH: What drives your use of texture and color?

Laszczynski: When I was an undergrad, one of my professors told me that all of my paintings were very flat and kind of bland. I lived in Cleveland and everything is really gray and kind of shitty, so I think space really informs how I make things. When I moved here, I started using really bright colors and collecting really shiny items like plastic jewels from the dollar store and those things made their way into the paintings. I was also really into cakes that I would see at Wal-Mart — the use of pattern and texture — so I would apply [paint] like a kind of frosting, one that you wouldn’t really want to eat.

FPH: How does feminism play a role in your work?

Laszczynski: So I have a weird relationship with that. I definitely consider myself a feminist, but there’s a lot of contradictions in the art world. You don’t want to call yourself a ‘feminist painter’ or ‘feminist artist’ per se because then it’s as if maybe you’re not as good as white male painters. I’m hesitant to apply to spaces that only show work by women because I feel like, “Shouldn’t I be good enough to compete with anyone?” I struggle with that a lot. I definitely consider myself a feminist and I use a lot of materials that are really ‘girly’ — that you shouldn’t paint with, maybe — like glitter or using flocking medium. I like using them in excess because it feels more intentional and in-your-face.

FPH: You have a residency at Vermont Studio Center coming up in July. Do you expect the residency to have an impact on your work?

Laszczynski: Yeah, I mean, I’ve never gone to one before so I’m really excited. I’ve never been to Vermont either and I think Houston definitely influenced how I started painting. I think being in the middle of the woods for four weeks is going to be really great. I plan on just making work on paper, which I usually watercolor, but I want to make abstract paintings on paper. Not having any other obligations and being in a new environment, it can completely change what you’re doing.

The opening reception for “Portals and Prophecies” takes place on Friday from 7 to 10 pm at Cardoza Fine Art (805 William) and the exhibition runs through June 3.