The uncanny narrative in her work is not lost in some of her more traditional realist paintings. Whether she is painting crabs, canoers, children playing golf, window shutters or children watching television, Melissa composes her works with the viewer in mind. She wants her audience to be entertained and also to ask questions. Why is the crab off-center? What are elephants doing on a TV screen? Why do you paint evergreens in the fall? In Sunday Afternoon Football, two children are laying on their stomachs, and their bodies are foreshortened toward a TV screen. Their iridescent skin tones are reminiscent of Norman Rockwell's lanky figures. The painter's scrutinizing eye, with an almost unwholesome predilection for details, is evident in the treatment of the striped rug, the hardwood floor underneath, the neo-classical mantle and the children's feet.
Fall Pines is another of Melissa Lauren's paintings that arrest the gaze and tickle the intellect. Instead of painting golden fall leaves, she sets two rusting ornate garden chairs against a delicately-handled moire of evergreens. As usual, the composition does not center a subject but weaves an unsettling context. Three orange pumpkins figure prominently in the painting, but it is hard not to look beyond them at the pines and the low horizon line. The passage of time or a gust of wind could easily alter this precariously designed moment that is filmic in its off-center deadpan crop. Who designed this stage? Well, I can tell you the artist photographed it herself and then worked from the photograph to complete the painting.
Whether new or old, there is always a story behind Melissa's paintings. Her skill as a former muralist and illustrator, her sense of humor and her quick imagination are all there for our enjoyment. We just have to open our eyes and look and question. Voila!