A exclusive video art piece by New York artist Robert Melee. Melee was born in New Jersey. He makes multimedia art — videos, installations, collages. His work is often compared to that of John Waters and Andy Warhol due to its overt campness.
–interview by Natalie Kates. Visit robertmelee.com for more information about the artist and his artwork.
Natalie Kates: You first appeared on my radar when I came across your piece entitled, “Disco Tray” from the BAM auction, then I emailed you on Facebook. What gallery represents you?
Robert Melee: Andrew Kreps in NYC
NK: In this age of social media, are art galleries still relevant? If so, can you elaborate?
RM: Social media is good for PR, but all my business and sales have only been through my gallery.
NK: The first video featured in this interview is entitled “Splosh.” Can you tell me how this came about and does it have a particular meaning to you?
RM: A few years ago a friend gave me a Splosh magazine. Sploshing is a sexual fetish- covering one in food/wet and messy substances in order to achieve sexual stimulation/arousal. The images were so twisted in the magazine. Individuals had whipped cream or large bowls of spaghetti poured over their heads, beans poured down mens pants and others sat on cakes and pies. Not only did these crack me up, but there was something very familiar – those being sploshed looked like my figurative sculptures I have been working on since 2005. My video “Splosh” was featured in my video sculpture entitled, “Process Unit;” in which the 3 videos toyed around with my art making process.
NK: “Season Preying,” which is also featured, is one of my favorite videos you did. How was this conceived?
RM: “Seasonal Preying”, was also made for one of my video sculptures – titled, “Rite of Spring Mattress Unit,” inspired by Stravinsky’s masterpiece, Rite of Spring. “Rite of Spring Mattress Unit” features 3 videos, as well as video stills showcased in a floating wall credenza. In the first video “Seasonal Preying,” a young man is seen kneeling; his identity is hidden by a cluster of different wigs. He is levitating and traveling thru the four seasons. In the second video, “Mattress” I show a sculpture superimposed with two new characters on top of older footage of the house I grew up in. These 2 characters have lost their identity, their heads covered in wig clusters and duct tape. These 2 men struggle to deflate an air mattress. The 3rd video in the unit, “Blondes Down,” features two frustrated housewives (each figure made of stuffed vintage jumpsuits, blonde wigs and clustered heads) jumping to their death from the window of a suburban house. Perhaps a sacrifice to ensure the coming of spring or maybe just some unhappy housewives.
NK: What are you working on now?
RM:I am currently working on a photography book. This book will consist of images taken of my mother spanning a decade. Also, there is gold in my future! I’m beginning to investigate the divine principles and complexities and kitch value of gold: sacred, camp, elegant, ridiculous, royal…
NK: Is there a consistent theme in all of your works?
RM: Fantasy vs. reality, genuine vs. artificial, grotesque vs. beautiful, flamboyant vs. mundane, hi vs. low. Perhaps the one constant undercurrent in all my work is duality.
NK: If you could be in any museum which would it be?
RM: The museum that asks for the lowest discount for the sale.
NK: Does fashion ever play a role in your art?
RM: My photo shoots and videos tell stories. In these works, I do all the styling and make up. Fashion plays a very important role.