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In the seventeenth century, Vermeer used an optical device called the camera obscura to help him accurately trace details of the subjects in a darkened chamber. This was the beginning of the photorealistic painting. Since 1970’s photorealism has emerged with an advanced style of art, thanks to the new technology and digital equipments. A stronger emphasis on imagery and color, that requires a high level of technical prowess and virtuosity to simulate, is also accompanied by uncompromised subject matter. In this evolution, along with Robert Cuttingham and Linda Bacon, Melissa Sims finds her own vocabulary to carry out the American traditions and contemporary movements.

Frank O’Hara once asked: “Why am I not a painter? One day I am thinking of a color: orange. I write a line about orange. Pretty soon it is a whole page of words, not lines. Then another page. There should be so much more, not of orange, of words, of how terrible orange is and life. Days go by. It is even in prose, I am a real poet. My poem is finished and I haven't mentioned orange yet”. Sims is the opposite of O’Hara: she thinks of a word, and imbues it with lines and colors.

Sims, originally trained as a photographer, uses camera as a high-speed sketchbook to record the “bright, shiny and flashy” neon signs, billboards, marquees and storefronts in and around Los Angeles, which for decades have shaped much of the pop culture in Hollywood and America’s commercial life. Based on these elaborate and monumental emblems, Sims then composes her paintings with oil and acrylic on wood panels. She often purposefully chooses enigmatic fragments and bold hues of color with detailed references as the photorealistic backgrounds of illustrated pin-up figures. Her pin-up characters are derived from or influenced by the comic books, magazines, television series or posters of the 50’s. The incorporation of photorealism and pin-up illustration vividly evokes the American history with nostalgia and injects fresh energy into pop art of the 21st Century. Another noticeable contributor in her work is her demonstration of how words can be effective carriers of style and meaning. In combination with isolated words or partial words, Sims either gives her images additional meanings or commands viewers to create their own arbitrary understandings. Similarly, Sims sometimes juxtaposes two seemingly unrelated images together to depict an alternative concept in the final representation. Her paintings are laminated with a coat of resin to promote an aesthetic of slick and flawless surface. The glassy finishing also highlights the fantasy-like subject matter.
Sims’ sparkling, pristine and cheerful representations of Los Angeles and Hollywood lift the renewed category of photorealism to another promising level.

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