Happy Cannibals at Material Art Space

Melissa Farris - Sir Loin - 2012

Melissa Farris – Sir Loin – 2012, 6″x8″ gouache on paper

Broad Avenue’s one room art space Material showcased small works by Melissa Farris on Saturday, December 7. The “Bitesize Morsels” were delicate, yet vibrant, paintings of individual size. The colors mimicked Pepto-Bismol pink and an illustrative meaty red to form compositions reminiscent of classic cutesy animal cartoons and diagrams of meat pre-consumption.

A dancing calf is cross-sectioned, a happy piglet is sliced into ham on a plate, and links of hot dogs dance like characters in a new fairy-tale. The animals have feet, about half have faces, yet the cross-section of the animals as meat products is not bloody or a political statement of vegetarianism.

Farris credits the color scheme of her grandparent’s house, a combination of mint, strawberry, and avocado, and the plastic beauty of illustrations and advertisements from the 1950s. “Happy Cannibals is a warm-hearted celebration of that failure [the era’s disjointed relationship with reality]” she wrote in her statement.

Melissa Farris - Franks - 2012

Melissa Farris – Franks – 2012, 11″x9″ gouache on paper

The disjointed combination of the living animals and the meat cuts the animals become humor, only allowed to be lighthearted when painted with such a happy palate.

The size of Farris’s works is similarly delicate and begs to enter private collections, offering an unobtrusive comic inclusion to any wall. Small does not belittle these paintings; instead the intimate nature of the size beckons the viewer to indulge in the non-reality of a living cartoon that is also a consumptive product. Farris did well to create a body of paintings enjoyable without overt social propaganda.

Melissa Farris - Hamlett - 2012

Melissa Farris – Hamlett – 2012, 11″x14″ gouache on paper


The show is available by appointment, which is worth the effort, through December 29. To schedule an appointment, contact Hamlett Dobbins at 901.219.1943 or hamlettdobbins@hotmail.com. Material Art Space is located at 2553 Broad Avenue in Memphis, TN.