Ottawa
3 min

From house to house with local artists

Exploring the world of Pontiac Artists

MOST INTERESTING. Marcio Melo's work is on the very walls and ceilings of his house. Credit: Capital Xtra files

Nestled in a quiet corner of the Pontiac region, surrounded by gardens, flowers and chickens, is a little taste of Brazil. He goes by Marcio Melo and his passion has left few surfaces around his farmhouse free of colourful paint.



“I decided to do what I always wanted to do,” says the former architect who came to Canada in 1987. “So I became a painter.”



Melo’s farm house in Quyon is one of 13 stops on the Pontiac Artists Studio Tour this summer. Viewers can go house to house enjoying the sites and exploring the work of local painters.



“The tour is one of the great things in Canada. You don’t open the doors to anyone like that in Brazil,” explains Melo, president of the Pontiac Artists Studio Tour. “People are able to see where the artist works, how his day goes, where he finds his inspiration. It’s a great idea.”



After a career restoring heritage buildings – a job Melo found “too technical” – he came to Canada and enrolled in painting courses in Hull, slowly building up his collection. He has been exhibiting professionally since 1992.



Melo has focused on acrylics, watercolours and “anything water-based” over the last few years, preferring canvas, masonite (wood) and paper as his backdrops.



Though his themes change constantly over the years, his current style can only be described as fowl.



“I’ve been doing that lately, the roosters, the chickens,” he muses. “We have them on the farm.”



Roosters are no stranger to Melo’s homeland, either, though he has sad memories of cock fights in the 1960s.



“But it’s quite appealing to paint, all the feathers. This year I have a series of birds… woodpeckers, blue jays, cardinals. To me they’re very exotic. I didn’t grow up looking at blue jays.”



While birds aren’t always the centerpiece of Melo’s work, he says living things are always featured.



“Cats are my passion, too,” he says. “We have two cats. I like them for the way they place themselves and the sense of movement they give to a picture.”



One of his pictures, On the Couch, features a stretching cat that sets off the entire piece. “I had to place something or someone in the middle of the scene. Maybe I’m the cat, I don’t know,” he laughs.



Melo enjoys painting garden scenes, too, but his most interesting work is on the very walls – and ceilings – of his house.



“I painted the ceilings of my roof for the tour last year,” he admits. “The staircase is painted, the bathroom is painted.”



He even transformed his bedroom ceiling into a series of spirals and flowers to hide the cracks when his family came to visit once. Another surface is covered in colours and birds, flying overhead. “No roosters in that one,” he laughs.



While Melo insists that paint on the ceiling doesn’t interfere with the room, and has even gotten him a couple of commissions, he adds that it can be a real pain in the neck – literally. Figuring that writing came more automatically than painting and required less concentration, Melo covered his next ceiling with prose.



“It has a lot of words written on it, songs from Brazil, philosophy, words from Margaret Atwood. Whatever came to my head, it was automatic, really. The ceiling has abstract shapes and colour, overlaid with words.”



Aside from the Pontiac Artists Tour, Melo will also hold an exhibition in Montréal starting Jul 29 at the Delta Hotel during the Diversity Festival. This August, he will also host his annual “Two weekends in August” at his farmhouse studio.



“What I have is sort of a corn celebration,” he explains. “At that time of the year in Brazil we have corn dishes and bonfires. It’s a potluck, people bring corn dishes and bonfires.”



Melo invites people to bring environmentally friendly, symbolic things to burn, such as poems. There is even an appearance by the Goddess of Fire and Light who Melo admits is “some lady that gets dressed up.”



But for now, Melo is concentrating on the tour and encourages the gay community to come out and support local artists.



“It’s a great opportunity to meet people and develop friendships. A lot can happen in a studio tour,” he says. “I think it’s good for them to support us, I think it would be nice for them to be welcomed by us, two gay guys in a gay house,” he laughed. “I’m gay also in the sense of being Latin and being colourful.”



* For more information on the tour or on the two weekends in August, call 819-647-3416 or visit www.marciomelo.com