B. 1954, United States
Melvin Way is a self-taught artist whose work occupies the uncharted borders between art and science. Born in South Carolina, Way came to New York City in the 1970s to attend a technical school, earning a certificate to operate a power press. He played bass in local bands, and recorded a solo album with Encounter Records, which folded before the album could be released. Soon after, Way was diagnosed with schizophrenia, and following a string of unsuccessful relationships, became homeless.
By 1989 Way was residing in the shelter run by Hospital Audiences International, a nonprofit organization offering art workshops to people with disabilities. Lower East Side artist Andrew Castrucci, a volunteer workshop leader at the time, encouraged Way to make art, and acted as his advocate during subsequent years. Way soon began to produce small, exquisite ballpoint-pen and ink drawings on found paper. Despite the very straightforward nature of his chosen genre, Way’s drawings are strikingly complex. Rich hybrids of scrawled text, mathematical equations, astronomical shorthand, chemical formulae, and alchemical punning, each work is marked by the artist’s signature, thrillingly dense sensibility. Way engages both the eye and the mind, drawing viewers into exquisite mysteries that may never be solved.
Way's work has been exhibited at the American Folk Art Museum (New York), Hayward Gallery (London), la maison rouge (Paris), Oliva Creative Factory (Sao Joao da Madeira, Portugal), and The Museum of Everything at MONA: Museum of Old and New Art (Tasmania). His work in part of numerous public and private collections, including American Visionary Art Museum (Baltimore), Antoine de Galbert Collection (Paris), Collection abcd / Bruno Decharme (Paris), Collection de l'Art Brut (Lausanne), Museum of Modern Art (New York), and the Smithsonian American Art Museum (Washington, D.C.).