Pete Checchia Photography & Arts presents Dreamscapes: The Art of John DeMelas, both the formal debut and retrospective of 93-year-old Philadelphia artist John DeMelas.
DeMelas has spent the last 87 years of his life making art, painting and sketching his sprawling, dreamlike visions on any surface he could find—napkins, diner placemats, cardboard boxes, envelopes, and many sketchbooks. “I’ve always wanted a show, but I never thought I would exhibit my work because I didn’t think I was an artist in that sense,” says DeMelas. “I like to draw. That’s all.” Viewed as a collection, a bigger picture emerges. It is a consciousness that thrives at the intersection of acute observation and imagination.
DeMelas does not need to travel or otherwise transport himself to find inspiration. He has found it in the people and objects surrounding him throughout each day of his life. As a kid drafted into the army while still in high school, he sketched portraits of fellow soldiers. As a young man attending art school thanks to money from the GI bill, he sketched fellow students, including the late Eugenie Rosenfelder, who became his beloved wife. As a father raising three kids on Pine Street in Philadelphia, he perpetually made sketches of his sleeping children, the cat on the table, the lamp in the living room.
DeMelas’s dreamscapes are visions of wild nature edged with a sense of menace, a balance of light and shadow, the beautiful and grotesque. The gnarled roots of a wild tree swirl into hallucinatory visions, as rigid buildings collapse to create disorienting shifts of perspective.
DeMelas begins at the center, without knowing how it will end, though signature motifs resonate throughout his body of work.
“The beach will be full of broken things, broken bodies, broken logs, and always in the middle of the sea I’ll have a little sailboat,” he says. “One little sailboat in each one.”
Prints of select work will be available for purchase on site.
Thursdays 5PM – 8PM
Fridays 5PM – 9PM
Saturday NOON – 9PM
Sundays NOON – 6PM
And by appointment