Melissa Loop’s paintings are truly eye candy. Vibrant, saccharin colors saturate the landscapes. Abstract shapes pop and drip. Conceptually, Loop explores the impossibility of utopia as a jumping off point for her paintings. She references highly stylized imagery of places like Las Vegas or the Caribbean Islands, online game worlds, and advertising. Like candy, these worlds beckon our desire to consume, but are not truly fulfilling or sustainable.
Kate Casanova: Your paintings examine the idea of utopia as problematized by Western society. You draw on imagery from video games, advertising, and animation to create larger-than-life worlds. Could you break down one of your paintings for us and give us some specific insight into the imagery?
Melissa Loop: In the painting The Patagonia Re-imagined I started with a collection of low resolution pictures that I gathered on Google Image and then developed a composition where everything is a sort of impossibility. A building on top of a waterfall that doesn’t seem to have a back, mountains that are too small. I like using degraded imagery so the pictures have gone through all of these processes and each time the image loses more and more information until I am forced to make up the parts that have become completely unreadable. I enjoy doing that because it relates to the way that we accept so much fractured information in our day-to-day life and we just kinda fill in what is missing. I think of these paintings as utopia advertisements so abstract shapes in the sky are there to call attention to the scene enticing you to look and be seduced by it. Also, the pattern work on the bottom is a stand-in for a slogan. For the dripping, I make the painting, turn it upside-down, and apply enamel with old brushes that are more like sticks then anything. So, it becomes this process of destroying what I’ve made, not wanting to be seduced. None of the paintings have contained any living beings so they are incredibly exclusive as well as lonely.
KC: The paintings are hyper-idealized images that reflect back to us that which we desire. As a viewer, I enjoy the bright colors and seductive imagery. It leads me to question desire itself, a thing that is not inherently destructive, but the consequences of what we want could be. What thoughts do you have on the idea of desire?
ML: I think that in our culture of instant gratification, and fake consumer need, it is hard to tell what desire is even authentic, what will really make you happy. It becomes easy to lose yourself in the bombardment of seduction. It then seems like so many people are left not even knowing what will makes them happy anymore. It’s really kinda tragic since desire is a basic human impulse that is built in for survival. Desire then becomes a paradox where it is necessary for continuation, and success, but is also extremely destructive and wasteful. In my work, I enjoy bringing out both sides of my own desire in various ways. For example, I find these really exotic locations that I would love to visit but doing so will accelerate their decline since many of the most beautiful places are extremely delicate eco-systems that can no longer tolerate their popularity. Plus, in order to bring a lot the most luxurious desires into fruition—I’m thinking of all of those swanky shoreline hotels owned by American companies—a person, place, or thing has to be exploited or subverted to make it all happen.
KC: What holds your interest and/or keeps you busy outside of art? Of course, much of what one does in their everyday life often influences their art. Regardless, what else are you into?
ML: My husband works in advertising so we end up having a lot of conversations about authenticity, the power and role of advertising, the seduction of products, and the ways that everything is manipulated. I’m not sure that it is something that I’m super interested in but it has a huge impact on my work. As far as what I like to do, I always love to be outdoors, explore new places, and learn about places and people that seem completely foreign to myself and where I come from. I’ve also gotten into gardening and learning how to become a better steward of the planet. It has made me appreciate the amazing amount of energy that it takes to make our food. Also during our few warm months in Minnesota, I can be found on or near a beach as much as possible.
KC: What does the future hold for you?
ML: Right now I am working on a couple more comprehensive projects. The first one is a more side project where I am documenting amazing places that will disappear with climate change. The other is a project on the French Polynesia where I am creating a whole series of work around this one place and it will be accompanied by a zine that will contain the Google Image research. I am really excited about the French Polynesia project because it is the kind of place that is most connected with all of the ideas that I have been using in my work. It will be extremely impacted by climate change, there is a love/hate relationship relationship with tourism and the locals, and it is still an occupied country that whats its own independence but is such a desirable location from a military stand point. The latter is extremely interesting because it touches not only on this idea of continued Colonialism through through the big tourism industry but it is an actual example with it’s strained relationship with France.