Heavy Heavy

Lafayette Coney Island Series. 2019

5'6"'x5'6" Acrylic on Canvas

Detroit becomes quickly uncool if we try and dissect the what of the place—a sentiment that carries over to this artistic treatment of a 100-year-old coney island restaurant at 118 W. Lafayette Street in downtown Detroit that is the subject of these paintings. Melanie Janisse-Barlow was introduced to the Lafayette Coney Island menu, it’s unique linguistic heritage (its lexicon of “loose loose,” “heavy heavy,” and “up on the tree light”), and its authentically gritty Detroit ethos as a young girl. It is this gritty energy, which has a distinctly Detroit feel that is the subject of the paintings in the Lafayette Series, and is meant to channel through each work. The results are portraits of the building and the people that make Lafayette Coney Island and Detroit institution and a cultural touchstone the world over. There is sense of humor about the place that is unique to Detroit and that Detroiters understand: it doesn’t take itself too seriously, while operating with  vibrancy and candour. 

Fill the Ketchup

Lafayette Coney Island Series. 2019

 5'6"x5'6" Acrylic on Canvas

Measuring five-feet-six inches square and rendered in oil and acrylic on canvas, the paintings in the Lafayette Series seek to preserve the informal mystique of the eatery by focusing on the nuances of architecture, color and interior design: Lafayette Coney Island’s landmark grey façades that tower over the street on both the West Lafayette Street and Michigan Avenue sides of the building; the muted yellow of the wall tile beneath the idiosyncratic green of the paint; the tessellated tile floor; the worn countertop and chrome pie case that are the hallmarks of countless diners and delis, become, somehow, special here; the countless framed photos of civic leaders, pundits and sports legends that line the walls, hinted at with deft gestures over the shoulders of the human subjects—these vibrant men who sling coney dogs, onion rings and stick doughnuts; who stand with their back to the viewer while they tend a griddle top crowded with hotdogs; or crowd the frame in a moment of brotherly levity; or loom over you ready to take an order, on the cusp of speaking the secret language of the Lafayette coney dog. They engage their viewer, who feels as if they are seated on a swivel stool at the lunch counter, part of this space.  

The paintings of the Lafayette Series highlight what the careful late-night and post-game diners already know: that there is more to Lafayette Coney Island than meets the eye. It is hallowed ground whether you’re a Tigers or Wings fan, or whether you know your rock ‘n’ roll lore (it’s where Patti Smith first met Fred “Sonic” Smith) Lafayette Coney Island is heterotopic and hermetic; unifying and levelling; in the public eye, but awash in the attitude of insider knowledge. Simply, it is far more intelligent than a coney dog place should be. These bright, arresting paintings bring that curious intelligence and Motor City grit into the art world.

Tall Pour

Lafayette Coney Island Series. 2019 

5'6"x5'6" Acrylic on Canvas

At the Counter

Lafayette Coney Island Series. 2019

5'6"x 5'6" Acrylic on Canvas

WIP

Dishes

Lafayette Coney Island Series. 2019/20

5'6"x5'6" Acrylic on Canvas

MELANIE JANISSE-BARLOW 

paintings and projects

WINDSOR

unit 1

121 University Ave W

Windsor, CANADA 

N9A 5P4

TORONTO

1 Stadium Rd

Toronto, CANADA 

M5V 3H4

DETROIT

#111 535 Griswold St

Detroit, MI

48226

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