Uncharitably beautiful and paradoxically frivolous, Fabergé Eggs seem unburdened with portent. Beginning in 1885, continuing until 1917 the Fabergé Easter Egg was an annual tradition of the Romanov’s. Precious few in number and immaculately conceived, they became emblematic of the ruinous authority of Tsar Nicholas II. This is the foundation of Melissa Gwyn’s Fabergenic paintings. Belying their commentary on class, technology, power and vanity, Gwyn’s idiosyncratic paintings draw upon the detail of Netherlandish painting and the sensual materiality of Abstract Expressionism. “Decadence is core to my visual sensibility and my tendency to obsess on detail through the material potential of my medium. I often think of my father’s admonition about taking things too far, “You don’t want to gild the lily.” But, with affection for my father I contend that “gilding the lily” is exactly what makes sense to me in these times.”
After receiving her MFA from Yale University in 1989, Melissa Gwyn lived and worked in New York. After moving to California, Gwyn joined the University of California Santa Cruz in 2002 where she is an Associate Professor. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, receiving reviews from Art Forum, Time Out New York, Village Voice, Art News, and The New York Times. Gwyn has been a visiting artist and/or presenter at Emory University, University of Southern California, UC Davis, Carnegie Mellon, The Tang Museum at Skidmore College, The Palmer Museum at Penn State and other institutions.