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Pre-war Grill Lamp
Dan Melville’s Pre-war Grill Lamp

Dan Melville: An Illuminating Show at Riverfront Art Gallery

Apr 30, 2018
by Sharon Feissel

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By Sharon Feissel

Gas LampDan Melville’s featured show is illuminating in multiple ways. His metal sculptural lamps will, of course, illuminate even the darkest corner of a room, but his approach to creating his lamps is also illuminating in an artistic sense. It is nothing short of amazing what the man can do with odd bits and pieces, converting a pile of scrap and junk into something quite arresting. Dan has been a tinkerer most of his life, admittedly with a preference for metal (although his 25-year business was in flooring), so he garnered skill and experience over time. This is evident in his flawlessly constructed pieces.

Dan’s initial offerings at Riverfront Art Gallery were small, metal sculptures. He couldn’t make them fast enough. “Yet,” Dan says, “something was missing. I felt there should be more action or interaction. I came up with adding lights, which made the pieces useful as well as more appealing. They are still sculptures, but now are expanded beyond that.” The bulbs Dan uses, with their ornately arranged filaments, are themselves sculptural elements in the final composition.

Dan’s lamps have touched on a variety of styles from simple geometric arrangements to some with tiffany-like shades and moving parts. Dan calls his style Early Industrial, although terms like steampunk, vintage, art decao, abstract, retro, or modern can readily apply to individual pieces. As with sculptures in general, these lamps automatically provide a point of interest in a room. Every so often, Dan comes up with something beyond unique. Currently he is showing a piece that stands on the floor, as some of his larger works do. This piece, Pre-War Grille Lamp, features the grill of an old car with headlights, fog lights, a crank, a hood ornament, other decorative items, a bulb horn, and a 1938 California license plate. For an old car aficionado, how perfect can it get?

Ideas often come from the pieces of metal themselves, something that catches his eye out of his stash of odds and ends. “Inspiration is definitely limitless,” he smiles. People give him interesting things, he checks thrift stores, garage and estate sales, and has even picked things up from the side of the road. It all has potential.

Retired now, Dan says he thought he would be spending more time on lamp production, but there is so much that is interesting to do in life. “I go back and forth on different kinds of projects.” But don’t worry, the light is still on in Dan’s creative mind. New and unusual lamps are on the way. Get in line!

Dan’s work is at Riverfront Art Gallery. He is one of the featured artists in the Late Spring Show entitled There’s No Place Like Home. The show opens May 9, with an opening reception on Saturday, May 12, 5:00-8:00 at Riverfront Art Gallery,132 Petaluma Blvd., Petaluma. Closed Mon. & Tues.

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