Artist Spotlight: Mel Jehu

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Mel Jehu, a senior art major with a concentration in painting, recently completed her Senior Synopsis Art Show and is working towards her senior thesis. Jehu said she was drawn to the University of Dallas because of her love for the arts and the ability to dedicate her time at UD to her passion. 

“Ultimately, it was the art program that sold me on the school. I like that UD has a focus on the classics and that I get to take a lot of really interesting classes. But honestly, it was the art department, and it was meeting some of the art professors and seeing the support for the arts on campus and seeing how nice the art village was,” she said.

For all of these reasons, Jehu fell in love with the UD and once she was attending classes and experiencing the culture on campus, her love for the university only deepened. 

“I love the art majors here. They’re all my friends. I love being in the studio space,” said Jehu, “and we can walk between studios and sort of look at each other’s art and see what we’re doing and have that continuous dialogue or critique going on. It’s a very nice environment.” 

As an art major, you take several foundational art courses including Drawing I, Drawing II, 2D Design, 3D Design and Human Figure plus some art history classes. 

One of Jehu’s favorite classes was Human Figure during her freshman year. “I love drawing from live models. It’s just one of my favorite things,” she explained. “It’s a very, chill environment to draw from the live model. And everyone’s just there to draw and learn.”

For her senior thesis, she is focusing on the human form, wanting to emphasize the bodily aspect of humanity’s body-soul composition.

“My main idea behind my show is sort of trying to generate a new awareness of your body and your mortality and just your, you know, existence as  a physical thing in the world,” explained Jehu. “ I’m creating these fleshy-like forms. And I want them to feel personal, but also a little disquieting.” Jehu feels as though humanity is often separated from the physicality of our bodies and her art attempts to find a balance between a material representation of the human form and the abstraction that art has. 

Her inspiration for her project came from an Anish Kapoor Exhibit in Oxford.  Jehu said, “It was sort of these gross sculptures with all these like organs and blood and guts type exhibition really, that a lot of people were sort of viscerally repulsed by. But for me, I just had this moment of like, ‘Oh my God, that’s what I’m made of,’ you know, that I sort of wanted to, I didn’t want to take the grossness necessarily at the same scale, but I wanted to take that feeling of recognition, and maybe have it in my work.”

After seeing this exhibit, Jehu wished for her work to be relatable and very reflective of the human form. She said, “That’s something I’m trying to work on channeling and how scale is going to affect that and how the exhibition layout will affect that. And I can really make people personally relate to my work.”

Jehu’s senior thesis focuses on human forms presented in a distorted and shocking manner. Jehu said, “I very strongly believe in the body-soul composite, that we are both body and soul but I think that it’s very easy to feel disconnected from your body, disconnected from the materiality of it, and I’m really interested in like bodily fears and those connections and I sort of love memento mori style artwork that reminds you that you will die. It makes you more present in your life.”

Jehu’s art process for her senior thesis sprung fully from her own mind; her art developed in a very personal way without using references. 

“I’ll do some thumbnails, make some sketches and then start working on the piece for these. I’m working much more intuitively. I don’t really have references, I’m just putting down a bright color and then I’m starting to put shapes in and I’ve done some figural sketches to get gestures,” she said, “and so I put down this bright background and I paint the figure and I do that whitewash around the figure.”

With such a strong emphasis on the body, Jehu’s art is meant to convey feelings of recognition and reflection on the physicality of our being.

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