If this were a celebrity gossip magazine, I would say this and call it a wrap: Mel Kadel lives with her boyfriend in an old Mormon stagecoach. Unfortunately, the just slightly higher journalistic standards of this site force me to fill in some blanks. (Or just skip the next paragraph and head right for the interview.)
For more inquiring minds, these are the details: The stagecoach really only represents part of the house (the kitchen), and the boyfriend is more commonly known as Travis Millard (also known as the man behind Fudge Factory Comics). Mel herself is quite literally known as Mel, but is also known as an incredible artist with a style all her own. If you had to place her in a category, she would land in the genre of art that is cooed over by Fecal Face (and their leagues of in-tune followers), but as the days go by, her breezy drawings have caught the eye of even wider audiences. You probably like to place yourself within the "in-tune" category, and if so — voila — a new interview with one of your all time favorite artists. If not, read up.
Joshspear.com: When did you start drawing, why did you keep doing it, and what does it currently mean to you?
Mel Kadel: I think every kid draws, and that's when it started for me. But, it was in high school that I became more focused. My art teacher was very inspiring and challenging, and she was a big reason that I started to push myself. I guess that challenge never went away and has a lot to do with why I continue to make drawings. No matter what I've done in the past, I have to keep starting over with blank pieces of paper.
JS: You moved around a lot before landing in L.A. Philly, NY, Robo-tripping art campuses — what does Southern California do for you that the other places couldn't?
MK: When I first started showing work out here in L.A., there were far fewer galleries than there are now. I hung work at cafes, record stores, and diners, and felt no pressure from the "art world." That, and the taco trucks, are what I liked about this town the most.
JS: Are you a big planner when it comes to your pieces, or are you more of the "just sit down and draw" type?
MK: I'm somewhere in the middle. I definitely start with a loose objective or story in my head, and then things change and happen through the process that I don't have planned.
JS: Your work has a vibe of calmness with a touch of inevitability — or maybe a fight that's going on in the midst of that calmness — sort of man vs nature, or man vs. human nature. What are some of the things you're trying to spill out on paper?
MK: I'd like to think that there is strength in struggle as long as you prevail through it. It's something I focus on in my drawings, but I don't want it to make you want to grab a kleenex. It comes more from a positive place than a sad one.
JS: Your drawings frequently feature the same girl — is that you?
MK: I think of that girl as people in general. Even though it's a girl, I don't mean it to be solely from a female perspective. She doesn't look like me, but I must have some things in common with her that I may not be admitting.
JS: The collaborations you did with Brian Canning are so beautiful — both of your work is so perfectly complimentary of each other. What is the story behind that collab?
MK: One of the fist apartments I rented in L.A. was above Brian's apartment. We became good friends right away and the collaborations slowly started happening. He'd give me stacks of writing or I'd give him stacks of drawings, and the words and images just clicked. We kept it going for about five years, but it's been a while now that we've done anything together. (Here is a link to Brian's band, The Afternoons)
JS: You've done some really incredible album covers. Is that an area that you like to play around in?
MK: Yeah, especially when it's a band that I really love. My boyfriend Travis Millard and I are currently helping the band Megapuss with their packaging. It's Devendra Banhart's side project and it's amazing.
JS: You made a book fairly recently — can you tell us about it?
MK: It's called Honey Pool and it's the third book of a series that I make from home. I can only make 100 books at a time, because the process is so long. It starts with designing the layout, and then treating around 1000 sheets of typing paper with coffee. After drying and flattening the paper, I send each crumpled sheet unwillingly through my printer. It's a pleasure when they are finished. Travis Millard has them available on his website.
JS: I'm hoping that you do another show at Andenken and spread a few more of those leg tie wheat pastes around. Could it happen?
MK: It could!
JS: Can you fill us in on your upcoming shows and projects?
MK: Here are a couple shows that are coming up:
The first one opens on Sept. 5th, at the Cinders Gallery in Williamsburg, NY. It's a split show with Suzanne Sattler. The next show opens on Oct. 2nd, at Fifty24 in Portland, OR. This show is with Travis Millard and Michael Sieben.