Our Fine Friends: Mel Weiner, Artist

July 07, 2017
- Longform
Author - Nick Dies

Mel Weiner is literally part of the extended Funkhaus family – my dad’s closest friend and an uncle to me.

His art, as you’ll read below, is an extension of his persona, which is colorful, carefree, earnest, exuberant, hilarious, non-sequitor, loving and, more than anything, one-of-a-kind. A true child of the Eastside, growing up in Echo Park, attending King Middle School, Belmont High School, and then Chouinard Art Institute (now California Institute of the Arts), he was born hip. He’s shown at galleries like La Luz de Jesus in Los Feliz in the past, and between his ornate mosaic portraiture and irreverent, detailed drawings, it’s a wonder that his voicemail isn’t filled with galleries chasing down his work.

Meet Our Fine Friend, Mel Weiner.

What inspires you?

My inspirations come via a variety of channels that thankfully open up for me on a constant basis. Both visual and mental images play against each other, sometimes meshing to form a tangible or intangible concept that I usually don’t act upon, much to my regret. My mind is constantly in motion throughout the day, churning out ideas but the productive process does not always engage with these thought processes.

What do you listen to while working?

Usually my mind selects its own discography for me. If I need a tool to step up the creative process I favor the sounds of Jazz, a La King Pleasure and Art Pepper, or Ben Webster or the R&B sounds of Jackie Wilson and Dinah Washington to facilitate a freer expression, although oddly enough, I tend to work more often within the soundtrack of my own mental playlist be it upbeat or bluesy. I’ve often considered a compilation of sounds that might enhance my work experience but have been fraught with an inability to successfully complete that task. The prep for the best creative situation has always been elusive to me.

Outline a day in your life.

I enter each day in a delirium that unfolds in numerous ways. Most mornings find me meandering between a mild depression and a semi euphoric stasis. My mind tends to be more lucid in the AM which allows me to handle my art output in a more productive manner. Later in the day I become burdened with a mental and physical fatigue that slows me down. If I have a project that I am working on I always like to get an early start. I often punctuate my working day with breaks which allow me to free my mind from the creative process through physical exercise via a jocular combination of variable size ball-tossing which includes footballs, baseballs, and basketballs, and a range open to any other spherical projectile that one can handle, which is accompanied by a constant banter which borders on the absurdity of the nightmarish world situation that we find ourselves in to the rantings of a comedian searching for a laugh from a recalcitrant audience. It’s tough to be an artist, but what isn’t?

Where do you go for inspiration?

I get my inspiration from a variety of visual and non visual piques that play a constant beat in my restless and unfocused makeup and provide a melody for me to act upon. The problem is always derived from an overabundance of these inspirations often leading to breakdown and disappointment. Surprisingly though I have shocked myself by actually following through on recent self-motivated concepts. Mental overload can negate a lot of great ideas but by simplification and persistence, and a labor-induced beat allow one to follow through on personal concepts. I am affected visually by a variety of elements. The human face has always intrigued me. The qualities exemplified through a makeup of features, the depth of character set forth by the placement of the eyes, length of the nose, slant of the mouth or turn of the neck are design elements that have always swayed me. Personalities that I admire, intimate and are newsworthy are targets of my focus both as comedic caricature and more serious and formal mosaic rendering.

Do you have a preferred medium to create in?

I work in a variety of mediums. When I get tired of working with one I enjoy a new refreshed state, a clean palette and a chance to change to a new art vehicle. Drawing naturally achieves the most immediate result and for that I convey my dexterity in probably the most basic expression. When I use drawing as a foundation for mosaics, they are a support element for a more involved piece. Ultimately the quality of the drawing determines the quality of the piece, although in some cases, such as in my beaded pieces, the labored finality becomes the element of interest.

“The process begins with a subject that I want to bead. I draw the portrait on the panel and then brush melted beeswax on the surface. I begin to embed the beads into the waxed panel starting with the features and then filling in the face and the background, losing myself in color and delirium.”

Can you take us through the process of creating one of your colorful beaded portraits?

My glass bead and wax pieces were inspired by an attraction to the Huichol Indian beaded art of Mexico. After listening to an NPR piece on the value of old rare baseball trading cards I conceived of collaborating those elements to create a more dignified and expressive product more valuable than a $5,000,000,000 Honus Wagner cardboard print piece. Of course, the limited circulation factor and improper press kept my prices considerably lower.

What’s one piece of advice you would give to a younger version of yourself?

If I had to advise a younger version of myself in today’s world, I’m not sure what sort of guidance I could render. I could be simplistic and say follow your passion, but be cautious and flexible which might be assuring and blasé at the same time.

When I was young, in the dark ages, most art was done by hand but today it isn’t. We are living in a period of instantaneous gratification and conspiracy. I find it a dire time for humanity, on the edge of possible calamity and yet still remains a chance to redeem itself through creative forces driven by creative minds. So I’d say to the youth of this time, be flexible and aware, pursue your talent but most importantly keep your sense of humor.

Find Mel Weiner here.