You Can't Stop the Spring

May 4— June 2, 2018

Howard Fonda featuring Matilda Alair, Austin Eddy, John Opera & Michelle Ross

Friday May 4 5-8pm: Artist Reception

Melanie Flood Projects is pleased to present You Can't Stop the Spring, an exhibition of new work by Portland, OR-based artist Howard Fonda. The show will open May 4, 2018 and run through June 3, 2018, with an opening reception Friday, May 4th from 5pm to 8pm. This will be Fonda's first solo exhibition at the gallery.

Howard Fonda makes frenetic works on canvas out of colored pencil and wet-on-wet oil paint. Finished in one day, each stroke and line is left visible with no hierarchy between a mark made instinctually and one made with careful precision. The exhibition, You Can’t Stop the Spring presents Fonda’s work alongside that of four others, selected by the artist: Matilda Alair, Austin Eddy, John Opera & Michelle Ross. By inviting his peers to join his exhibition, slotted as a solo show, Fonda positions the work not as a collaboration but as guest appearances.

Philosophy and spirituality meet through the psychedelic application of pencil and paint. Narratives are told through allegorical symbols and lyrical text splayed with cartoonish and bubbly characters. In one image, a cooing ghost masked by tree branches and the moon floats in the center of the canvas. In another, a wizard is dressed in a starry cloak. Fonda pulls from familiar mythic symbols of life: an owl, to represent wisdom and intuition; a rainbow for promise; an alligator for fertility or rebirth; a skull for mortality; or a crescent moon to show the cycles of life.

Between the lines of his drawing, Fonda’s marks fill space like the oval swirls of an artist’s mixing tray. Attention moves from the painted image to the marks themselves, recurring oblong orbs of oil and scribbles of colored lead. Elsewhere, a sketched palette on paper borrowed from painter Michelle Ross’s studio hangs next to one of her larger paintings on fabric. Austin Eddy’s collage of thick acrylic and glossy paper employs the same scribbling technique and playfully lush colors as found in Fonda’s paintings, while the rigidity of process and form in John Opera’s cyanotype on canvas acts as a counterpoint to the show’s vibrating energy. Seen through the window of the gallery’s smallest room is a still life painting depicting a vase-full of boozy pink and red flowers. The dizzying marks circle the canvas, flowers bouncing and bending to their vase. On the floor, Matilda Alair’s clay vessels take on the pinch and bend of her palms as if embracing the same malleability. A drooping bouquet with puffy eyes and crooked smiles replaces illustrated parable in this whimsy image. Each stroke is a little wiggle, rippling across the canvas.

With loopy marks, angled lines, and colorful smudges, Fonda’s work represents a contemporary take on the traditions of alla prima painting. The inclusion of other artists’ mixed-media work broadens the dialogue; seven paintings and one work on paper are paired with fabric, collage, photographic print, and clay. Just as one mark holds no hierarchy over another, Fonda shares his exhibition to indicate the same for craft and process.

Text by Carlin Brown

Carlin Brown (carlin b) is a Canadian artist and writer based in Portland, OR.


Howard Fonda is an artist, former educator, father and husband living in Portland. Philosophical and introspective, Fonda’s work expresses a romantic worldview and mystical inner journey. The artist’s work has been exhibited throughout the United States and abroad.

Matilda Alair is a poet, printmaker, and potter living in Portland, OR. They received their BFA from the Oregon College of Art and Craft in 2018. They believe there is intrinsic beauty and truth in all of us; in our curiosity, silliness, anger, sadness; in trying and sharing despite fear and other obstacles; that art is a bridge and it heals.

Austin Eddy (b. 1986) earned a BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2009. He now lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. Exhibiting internationally, His solo shows since 2012 include; Launch F-18 Gallery, New York, NY (2015); Roberto Paradise, San Juan, Puerto Rico (2013 and 2015); Christian Berst, New York, NY (2015); Bendixen Contemporary Art, Copenhagen, Denmark (2014); The Horticultural Society, New York, NY (2013); the University of Kentucky Hospital, Lexington, KY; and Important Projects, Oakland, CA (2012): Conduit Gallery, Dallas, TX (2016) and most recently Taymour Grahne Gallery, New York, NY (2017). Eddy has also been included in various national and international group shows including Buying Friends at The Urban Institute of Contemporary Art in Grand Rapids Michigan, WAP Group Show at Museum Of Contemporary Art Atlanta. Contemporary Practice, at The New Hampshire Institute of Art. Manchester, NH Adams And Ollman, Portland, OR, Coburn Projects. London, GB. Brand New Gallery. Milan, IT. Steinsland Berliner, Stockholm, SE. Charlotte Fogh Gallery. Herning, DK. as well as a two person show at Denny Gallery in New York, NY.

In his photo-based work, John Opera combines a deep interest in the visual characteristics of natural and scientific phenomena with a rigorous experimental approach to the techniques and apparatuses by which photographs have been defined and produced. Opera often returns to antiquated—but by no means exhausted—photographic tools and processes, including pinhole imaging, and more recently the cyanotype and anthotype.  He earned his BFA from SUNY New Paltz (1998) and MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2005). Opera is currently an Assistant Professor of Art at University at Buffalo, SUNY. Opera’s exhibitions include: Higher Pictures (New York), Longhouse Projects (New York), DOCUMENT (Chicago), Shane Campbell Gallery (Chicago), Andrew Rafacz Gallery (Chicago), The Suburban (Milwaukee), The Museum of Contemporary Photography (Chicago), Transformer Station (Cleveland), Michael Jon Gallery (Miami), Macalester College Art Gallery (St. Paul), CEPA Gallery (Buffalo) and The Burchfield-Penney Art Center (Buffalo). His work has been the subject of a two-person exhibition at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis and is featured in the second volume of MP3, co-published by Aperture and the Museum of Contemporary Photography (Chicago). His work is part of the permanent collections of the DePaul Museum of Art (Chicago), the Burchfield-Penney Art Center (Buffalo), and the Museum of Contemporary Photography (Chicago), among other institutions.  Opera’s work has been reviewed by Artforum,, The New Yorker, Flash Art, The Chicago Tribune, The Miami Rail, The Buffalo News, and Chicago Artist Writers, among other publications.  

Michelle Ross makes paintings out of a variety of materials in order to conjure a physical record of her sensate body perceiving the world. Her work has been exhibited at venues throughout the United States and in Italy, including at CANADA Gallery, (New York) Sheppard Fine Arts Gallery at the University of Nevada, Reno (Nevada); Shaw Gallery at Weber State University (Utah); Portland Art Museum (Oregon); The Art Gym, Marylhurst University (Oregon); Nine Gallery (Oregon); Lumber Room (Oregon); New Mexico State University (New Mexico); Barrett House Galleries (New York); and Rome International University (Italy). Her work has appeared in New American Paintings, a published exhibition in print curated by Jennifer Blessing at the Guggenheim (New York); by Lowery Sims at the Museum of Arts and Design (New York); and by Jessica Morgan at the Tate (UK). Ross has received numerous awards, residencies and fellowships, including a Hallie Ford Fellowship (Oregon), a MacDowell Fellowship (New Hampshire), a Portland Art Museum Contemporary Northwest Art Award (Oregon) and was named a visiting artist at the American Academy in Rome (Italy). She was short-listed for the Seattle Art Museum’s Betty Bowen Award (WA), and has received an Oregon Arts Commission Individual Artist Fellowship (OR). She is the head of the Drawing and Painting Department at the Oregon College of Art and Craft, Portland. Ross is represented by Elizabeth Leach Gallery, in Portland, Oregon. She received her MFA from Washington State University, in Pullman.