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[AC] Mead Art Museum at Amherst College; [HC] Hampshire College Art Gallery;
[HD] Historic Deerfield; [MH] Mount Holyoke College Art Museum; [MH SK] The Joseph Allen Skinner Museum at Mount Holyoke College; [SC] Smith College Museum of Art; [UM] University Museum of Contemporary Art at UMASS Amherst


Maker(s):Mellyn, Sean
Culture:American (1965- )
Title:Crème Brûlée
Date Made:2000
Materials:oil on canvas mounted over stretcher and board (unframed)
Measurements:Stretcher: 60 in x 48 in x 1 5/8 in; 152.4 cm x 121.9 cm x 4.1 cm
Accession Number:  AC 2013.17
Credit Line:Gift of Steven M. Jacobson (Class of 1953)

In this painting, a woman stares straight at the viewer with clear, round amber eyes. Her oversized head is on a disproportionately small upper body dressed in kelly green and turned to the side. Her auburn hair is piled in wavy layers. One side is twisted into a towering, pointy summit with three long strands obtruding from the tip. The artist's style is informed by the airbrushed, clean look of 1950s advertisements, as reflected by the woman's silky, shadowless skin and silky hair.

Label Text:
Sean Mellyn often uses advertisements from the 1950s as inspiration and source material for his paintings—imitating their saturated color palette and airbrushed surface quality and borrowing imagery. With a few conspicuous but simple alterations, Mellyn mocks the idealized portrayal of American character in midcentury advertisements.

Although a corresponding advertisement isn’t identified, it is easy to surmise where Mellyn may have deviated from the original design to create Crème Brûlée. Here, Mellyn adds an exaggerated and ridiculous hairdo to what would otherwise be a sweet and unremarkable portrait.

Steven M. Jacobson, the donor of this quirky painting, has given extensively to the Mead over the last thirty-five years. Additional artworks from a recent gift are highlighted in an adjacent gallery.

MD, 2013

advertising; fashion; feminism; portraits; humor; satire; social commentary; women

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