Interdimensional Landscapes are meditative images of macro photography art

Reviews

Tamara Melcher's "Interdimensional Landscapes"
Linda Dalrymple Henderson

Tamara Melcher's recent works are based on her development of a totally new kind of drawing. Her close-up photographs, enlarged as digital prints, record the transparent and translucent bands and areas of color she first discovered in her creation of glass beads. As Melcher twists and turns her molten grass rods, she is literally drawing in three dimensions, with her "marks" frozen in time and space as the glass cools. The result is an ethereal, abstract space that is fluid, complex and suggestive of even more dimensions than three. These tiny, "interdimensional worlds of glass deny any clear sense of scale - microscopic or macroscopic? - and thus suggest the concept of infinity, associated with the popular idea of the "fourth dimension of space."

Interest in the multivalent "4D" had been central for many early 20th century artists and played a key role at the co-op Park Place Gallery (New York 1963-1967), of which Melcher was a founding member. At that time, she was making bold, geometrically oriented paintings that demonstrated her superb understanding of color relationships and composition.1 Like her fellow artists, including painter Dean Fleming and sculptor Mark di Suvero, Melcher incorporates dynamic effects of spatial change in her art, as the elements of a painting would, for example, flip back and forth between two different possible readings. Her new works demonstrate a similar spatial complexity, but now in an organic form language. Here Melcher's sensitivity to color and to composition are equally apparent in the variety of subtle hues she achieves and in her careful composing of her photographs.

One of Melcher's artistic heroes is the pioneer of abstract painting, Wassily Kandinsky, who believed that his compositions of fluid color could communicate directly with a viewer's soul. 2 Melcher is likewise a visionary artist: her works reflect her experiences of swirling color during her meditation practice, which she has now found a way to externalize through the media of glass and photography. As she has written, "For me, Spirit and color are intertwined. I am guided through this life, and the name I choose to give to guidance is Spirit." 3 Melcher's belief in art as a vehicle for spiritual values places her in a little-acknowledged tradition of visionary artists running through the 20th century. Happily, the art world of the 21st century has become far more open to art with a spiritual focus, as exhibitions such as The Inward Eye: Transcendence in Contemporary Art 4 demonstrate. More than ever, we need artists like Melcher to sensitize us and to remind us of the values that matter in today's world.

meditative images, macro photography art

Surprise Element

1 See Reimaging Space: The Park Place Gallery Group in 1960s New York, curated by Linda Dalrymple Henderson (Austin: Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas, 2008). Although Melcher was not yet interested specifically in the fourth dimension, her developing spirituality brought her to a philosophical position paralleling that of Fleming, who embraced P. D. Ouspensky's equation of mystical "cosmic consciousness" with the fourth dimension in this 1911 book, Tertium Organum.

2 On Kandinsky's art and theory, see Rose-Carol Washton Long, Kandinsky: the Development of an Abstract Style (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980).

3 Unpublished notes by the artist, 2010

4 The Inward Eye: Transcendence in Contemporary Art, curated by Lynn M. Herbert (Houston: Museum of Contemporary Art, 2001).

Linda Dalrymple Henderson
David Bruton. Jr Centennial Professor in Art History and Distinguished Teaching Professor, Ph.D.
Department of Art and Art History
The University of Texas at Austin

BOOKS PUBLISHED:

The Fourth Dimension and Non-Euclidean Geometry in Modern Art
Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983, to be reprinted by MIT Press, 2010
New edition includes extensive "Reintroduction" (ca. 400 pp.) augmenting the original book and addressing the fate of the fourth dimension 1950-2000

Duchamp in Context: Science and Technology in the Large Glass and Related Works
Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998.

From Energy to Information: Representation in Science and Technology, Art and Literature, co-edited by Linda Dalrymple Henderson and Bruce Clark
Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2002.