Dallas Artist Explored Concepts of Strangers and Alienation

Maryanne Meltzer

Maryanne Meltzer’s work is somewhat of a stranger in the art circuit today, yet not so long ago her work received accolades near and far. Somewhat forceful in her paintings and refined in her printmaking, Meltzer often explored the topics of strangers and alienation.

Her artwork filled the walls of her North Dallas home. Large paintings in a variety of styles demanded attention, while stacks of prints quietly accommodated perusal. A storage shed in the back yard was built to accommodate her accumulating works.

“Although I never had the opportunity to meet Maryanne Meltzer, I was immediately struck by the quality of her work,” says local art critic Lin Wang who is helping organize a show at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center. “It’s bold and sometimes unconventional, but always well-executed.”

With an interest in art at an early age, Meltzer seems to have found her artistic voice in her 60s when she completed her studies at University of Texas at Dallas. In our research we uncovered shows in Los Angeles, Pennsylvania, San Angelo and Shreveport, and a number of articles singing her praises, particularly for her print work.

While her work can be divided into several periods, it is when she was focused on alienation and separation that she excelled. Looking at the work George Tooker, as office workers look up from cubicles, Meltzer’s concern for a lack of connectivity in modern society can be felt.

And often we are living among strangers. A stranger is person whom one does not know or with whom one is not familiar, or a person who is not known in a particular place or community. A 1988 exhibit at Artspace included her framed monotypes and freestanding, two-sided painted plywood figures in a case study in the almost universal fear of strangers.

Maryanne Meltzer

“She wrote her thesis on alienation, a frequent theme in Tooker’s work,” Wang says. “In the age when human interactions are squeezed through computer or phone screens, it just feel so pertinent to look at her works and mirror our own situation””

Other artistic influences on Maryanne’s work come from Willem de Kooning and Francis Bacon. While her printwork is often contemplative, delicate and precise, her paintings demand attention. The rapid and erratic brushstrokes recall the work of de Kooning in particular.

Maryanne Meltzer studied art at the Art Institute of Chicago at a young age, then at SMU and TWU, but didn’t complete her graduate work at the University of Texas, Dallas until the age of 69.

“She was always painting,” recalls daughter Carolyn Carter now living in California. “She didn’t stop painting until she couldn’t hold a paint brush anymore.”

Strangers: The Artwork of Mayanne Meltzer opens at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center August 15.

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