Melinda Zox cut her baby teeth on abstract art. The daughter of two artists—Larry Zox, a seminal force in geometric abstractions and the color field movement of the 1960s, and Jean Glover Zox—she grew up in the heart of the bustling, buzzing downtown New York art scene. Now, years later, she’s found a deeper serenity in both location and practice.
Not every child wants or chooses to follow in their parents’ footsteps, but Zox was compelled. “It was just something I had to do. I also followed my father’s footsteps and became a fisherman. I lived in Alaska and fished. That was something I felt driven to do for the love of it. But painting is something I’m driven to do because I must. It’s a form of my expression and when it’s flowing it’s the most amazing experience.”
Her dynamic compositions emanate energy through color and line. “I love to interrupt the space with a line of color. When I lay that color line down with the tube I feel that exhilaration that I’ve interrupted that flat space. Then I’ll go over it and go over it and go over it. I like to get a three-dimensional sense with different layers and sometimes layers of the same color.” Despite conscious constraints of canvas or paper, Zox’s forms seem poised to break free. She paints her intent in soft washes of pink, sharp tangerine or lime, grounded with grey, white or deep black. They’re about contrast and movement.
In “Set Rotate,” a central orange hue is as soft as fog. It’s surrounded by black as dense as one she remembered from the shores of Alaska’s Coal Bay. Lines are painted over, others peek out. Zox points to the middle. “The center is an acrylic that I water and then I wipe and work it differently. And then I move it, and I try to get some motion.” She’s a woman whose spirit and work embraces active energy.
Hidden behind her seemingly simple forms are layers of emotion, meaning and memory. “My father comes up a lot in everything I talk about with my artwork. I have some paint from him in tubes. I always try to put in a bit. I do that in little places just to honor him.”
Color is Zox’s primary voice; line and form give it structure. “I love color…I’m not flashy at all but I really want that punch of color. It’s the subtlety and that punch at the same time that I look for. The subtle is in the softness of the air through it. The harder edge, the color, is the punch…it’s calculated. When I lay these lines, I want the balance of the kinetic energy and the colors.”
Rectangles and circles repeat across works on canvas and paper. Spaces that are either bisected, with two forms filling a composition, or enclosed by sweeping circle, express openness, structure, freedom or the void. Her strict abstraction leaves that to viewers. They may find vibration and speed. They may find a point of contemplation.
“I want the quietness, but with explosive color to interrupt you in that quiet place. I want to shock with color. It’s ideal if somebody’s able to look at a piece, feel something privately with it in their own experience, but I want to interrupt that. I want a reaction. I want a feeling. I don’t want it just to be quiet and go to sleep. I want to punch it with color and give you something that’s going to just knock you off your feet…an emotional connection, which is what we all want, right?”