The Village Seen: Painter Patricia Melvin

Patricia - daffodils

“Tompkins Square Park, Daffodils I.”  Oil on linen. All paintings by Patricia Melvin.

Today is the second installment of a new occasional series, “The Village Seen,” to display the work of the many talented visual artists in our neighborhoods. Longtime East Villager Patricia Melvin has been painting downtown for more than three decades; you may have seen her stationed outside with her easel near Jefferson Market Library, St. Mark’s Church, on the Bowery, or another of her favorite spots.

Melvin’s work, in both oil and watercolor, has a timeless feeling that evokes scenes by past painters of the Village such as William Glackens and Edward Hopper. A resident of the same Second Avenue apartment for four decades, her sensibilities are perfectly matched with her environment. A great friend and supporter of GVSHP, Melvin was happy to talk with us about her work.

Patricia - gansevoort

“Evening, Gansevoort Street.”  Oil on linen.

How did you become a painter?

I’ve been drawing and painting since childhood. I grew up in Irvington (New York), looking at the sunset on the Hudson River every day. I was also inspired by some works by my Belgian ancestors, Ferdinand and Henri deBraekeleer; Henri Lys; and the Hudson River School.

I have a basic traditional outlook: When I see something beautiful, I just have that strong desire to capture it. I’m mostly in love with light and how it transforms architecture, as well as the interplay between nature and the built urban environment.

Patricia - stomp snow

“Stomp, Snow.”  Oil on linen. Melvin has painted this view outside her window many times, capturing many moods.

 How would you describe your style?

My style is realistic and expressionistic. It’s not pure realism. I’m concerned with light, but I’m not an Impressionist. My work is compared to the Ashcan School; I’m painting within that tradition.

Patricia - wisteria

“Wisteria on Christopher Street.”  Oil on linen.

Your work has a documentary quality. Is that an aim of yours?

Everyone says that about my work and I know it’s true, but it’s not my motive. My love is light and old things. Sometimes I’m almost afraid to paint things, knowing that they might go away. In 2001 I had access to a friend’s balcony, and I did a sketch of the Bowery looking south to the World Trade Center. One week later was 9/11.

Patricia - Sunny's

“Sunny’s (with WTC Memorial Lights).”  Oil on linen.

What’s it like to be a painter en plein air on the streets of New York City?

People want to talk to me, and I’ve learned to give short answers. Sometimes it’s hard to go from colors to words. Other times, it doesn’t bother me – I’m dying for a break.

Even in the city, nature changes all the time. Or a UPS truck will come and park right in front of my easel. I do love painting in the rain, and you can almost always find a scaffolding or awning for protection.

Patricia - B Bar

“Bowery Bar, Spring Morning.”  Oil on linen. Melvin is drawn to angles, and this site has plenty of them.

 Are you part of a community of artists in the Village?

It’s disappearing, sad to say. I moved to the Village because I wanted to learn to be a painter. I had a lot of artist friends who were older, who are not here anymore. There are still artists around, but they can’t afford to move in here anymore.

Patricia - rectory

“In the Still of the Night (St. Mark’s Rectory).”  Oil on linen. Now called the Neighborhood Preservation Center, this building is a favorite subject of Melvin’s — and the location of GVSHP’s office.

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Karen Loew

Karen Loew is the Director of East Village and Special Projects at GVSHP.

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3 comments on “The Village Seen: Painter Patricia Melvin
  1. Karen Loew Ken Ratner says:

    I am proud to call Patricia a dear friend. She came to my attention about 10 years ago when I discovered her work on the internet. As a collector of the Ashcan School, I was immediately drawn to her excellent pictures, which calls to mind the work of one of my favorite artists, John Sloan.

    Patricia’s work continues to amaze me. Her ability to capture scenes of everyday life is outstanding, and she also excels in painting the landscape, as well as still life.

    Above all, she is a wonderfully kind and giving person, and I am honored to call her a friend.

  2. Karen Loew Beth Sopko says:

    This is wonderful and delightful to read; I’ve known Patricia for years and am quite taken with her work. Although I hadn’t heard of her work being compared to the Ashcan school, I immediately see a connection to Don Freeman—one of the Ashcan painters.

    She’s also an intrepid soul for braving the streets to make her art—day in, day out! I’m quite impressed with any painter who braves the New York City streets—and its characters—to make art.

  3. Karen Loew marjorie says:

    i love this post. thanks, karen. i can feel the chill in the Stomp painting!

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