The Curator’s Eye: Melinda Cox

Silent Cicada, 2008, pastel on paper, 26 x 40 inches

Selected by Jennifer Olson-Rudenko, The Gallery at Tacoma Community College

Having produced delicate graphite and color pencil drawings of still lifes and nudes for several years, Tacoman Melinda Cox found new inspiration in her hometown of Omaha, Nebraska. She undertook a series of bold charcoal drawings including a farmer, a girl on horseback and a windrow. Later, she and photographer Linda Staats took two road trips through the American heartland, searching for material to create a new, shared exhibit. Along the way, they stumbled upon a train festival, treated themselves to Blue Bunny ice cream and canoed on Lake Owasso.

Silent Cicada is a new work inspired by this journey. An oil pastel drawing of a larger-than-life-size dry insect shell clinging to a tree, it is a representative work as it focuses on an agricultural subject through manipulation of scale, placement in the picture plane and use of uncomplicated backgrounds. While I appreciate its artistic skill and formal qualities, others may just recall the shrill sounds they have heard emanating from cicadas and be transported to another time and place. —J. O.-R.

This work is my window to the heartland. I can’t paint the prairie sky as blue or vast as it is in reality, or the constant rustling of the massive hardwood trees. Try as I might, I can’t share with you the hush and chill of the cellar before a tornado or the magical flicker of the fireflies and the dynamic sound of a summer night. What I wish to convey is some sense of a place I love. —M. C.