Born in New York in 1942, Joan began painting at an early age. She studied Interior Design at the Fashion Institute of Technology and then went on to study printmaking and painting at New Paltz State University where she recieved her Masters in Art. It was the Adirondak Mountains and their unique rock formations as well as a deep love for the Impressionist's that was most influential to her work.
Upon the completion of her studies and several student exhibitions she moved to Manhattan to begin her professional career as a painter. During the sixties Joan taught art in various school programs and began exhibiting her etchings in and around New York. Her first group show in New York was at the American Greeting Card Gallery in the Pan American Building in 1968. As a result of this show she was asked to discuss printmaking in a radio interview on WNYC with Ruth Bowman a well known art critic. At the same time she was exhibiting at the Anne Leonard Gallery in Woodstock and the Open House Gallery in Katona, New York, through 1969.
Living and working in New York City had a very strong influence on Joan's paintings. The clarity of color became much stronger and the image much larger, as well as more simplistic. But she still maintained the landscape. She continued exhibiting in New York City at the Connection Gallery and the Metamorphis Gallery in group shows in 1972-73. Her group show at the Levitan I & II Gallery in 1973 was her first exposure to the Soho Gallery scene. In 1974 Joan started teaching at Lehman College in the Bronx and Kean College in New Jersey, where she was in several faculty shows. On the island of Cozumel in Mexico she discovered the tranquility of a whole new world under the sea. It was at this point that her paintings moved from landscape to the underworld of the sea. to capture its' silence and unique sensual mystery, as well as the spaciousness ot the all encompassing water, the volumetric tension of the underwater currents, and the diffused and refracted light which penetrates such depths. She makes it possible for the viewer to submerge visually and psychologically to encounter the unusual effects of light and water, and the amorphic qualities and delicate coloration of rock and coral formation.
They exude a sense of life and vitality, their thin glazes of pigment flow, penetrate, merge and re-emerge. Dark and vibrant color areas yield to paler, softer pastels; deep shadows spawn a multitude of forms that vibrate with light. Melnick is, above all, a colorist, extraordinarily sensitive to the expressive and evocative roles that color plays in art and nature. Usually subtle and fragile, sometimes direct and bold, she handles her transitions from light to shadow with absolute, precision. She controls the delicate balance of color, light, and form in a painterly parallel to organic growth.
Like color and form, space, in these canvases, is subtly handled with an intuitive , sense of its expressive powers. The viewer is confronted with forms which sometimes adhere to the pictures surface; more often, they resonate as floating, colored shapes in an ongoing spatial expanse. The work of art asserts itself as both independent entity, composed and controlled by the artist's response to experience, and as a secret region so that forms rise to the surtace forming a spatial contunuity with the viewer, immediate, direct, and evoking tactile and olefactory senses. However, these forms fluctuate; they broaden, expand, separate, and fade; they float into the viewer's space only to vanish into hushed, dimly lit recesses.
Melnick handles the relationship of viewer to pictorial forms and space much as the diver experiences marine life; she creates a pictorial ambiance which embraces the observer, surrounding him with colors, tones. and forms that place him firmly in the center of her painted universe. He feels himself at one with his surroundings, and yet, curiously detached from its quiet harmonies. He enters a world where he is a visitor only. For the brief period that he stands before her canvases, the observer shares the artist's vision, her painted sphere of felt and remembered experiences. By her masterly handling of the medium the artist creates for us a private world in which abstract color and form speak of the mysteries of nature, of man's longing for a unity with his environment.
Joan Melnick's art transforms shifting, elusive regions to concrete, tenable realities. Her paintings are personal, yet they satisfy communal desires for tranquility and the gentle touch of nature. They are, in a sense, offerings.
The paintings of this period from 1973-75 were exhibited in Joan's first one woman show in the Ponce Gallery in Mexico City in 1975. The work was well received with reviews in the four major newspapers and a television interview acclaiming her as "a first magnitude artist, looking for the underwater light, sensitive to the expressive and evocative role that color plays in nature."
Joan has continued working with the coral forms and has been exhibiting her work in one woman shows at the Hansen Gallery in New York City to this date as well as group shows at the Brooklyn Court House and P.S.1 in Oueens. She has a show coming up in September 1979 in Chicago, and the Womans' Dialogue in Paris in November 1979. She has also had work published in Penthouse Magazine; The Whole Sex Catalogue; and the Kitchen Almanac.
She presently resides in New York City and is teaching at the Fashion Institute of Technology.