The Intersection of the awe-inspiring and the subtle

L.A. native Melanie Treuhaft came to UW–Madison to study drawing and painting. Along the way to her MFA she discovered that adding projected images onto her paintings made for a much richer way to view her work.

Treuhaft is interested in the layering of paint and light, not only in the relationship between the layers in a piece, but the relationship between the piece of art and the figures in the room. For example, in CAST, her final MFA exhibit, Treuhaft took photos of her paintings then projected the images onto the actual paintings. As viewers moved through the projected images of her work, their shadows became part of what others were seeing as they interacted with the paintings in the gallery.

“(With projection) you can see the same thing in a different way. So with an overhead projector you draw something on a transparency and then it’s projected really large and you learn more about the mark making and that sort of thing. With a digital projector you learn more about the image being photographed."

Photo credit: Kaitlyn Veto (left three)

Photo credit: Kaitlyn Veto (left three)

Treuhaft is intrigued by the way people process information, specifically visual information, especially when it is difficult to tell whether two pieces of art are together or are separate pieces of work. Treuhaft is also interested in how materials function together. She experiments with paint, paper, shellac, graphite and glue, then adds additional paint, neon, or projected light to add dimension to her work.

While working on her MFA, she started doing scene painting for University Theatre and University Opera. It was a job she fell right into. “I needed a job and they needed a painter,” said Trehaft. “Basically they trained me and then I kept working with different scenic artists. I took a scenic class and tried to learn as much as I could”.

Treuhaft returned to L.A. this summer after graduating from UW-Madison. She will try to find work as a scene painter, and may eventually look for a teaching position. “If I could I’d like to work on a bigger scale. Over the next couple of years I’ll probably be doing small things for group shows. But ideally, I’d like to work really big.”

I draw on my experience in theater to achieve visual effects that register as familiar without being overtly lifelike.

—Melanie Treuhaft

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