Artist Profile: Melanie Marie Kreuzhof
“Die tote Stadt”, 2004
Erich Wolfgang Korngold completed composition of his triumphant opera “Die tote Stadt” in 1920 at the age of 23. Based on Georges Rodenbach’s story “Bruges-la-Morte”, the story centers on a man named Paul who has been living the life of a hermit in the city of Bruges following the death of his beloved wife Marie. He meets a young dancer named Marietta whose close resemblance to his dead wife Marie upsets his state of perpetual mourning to the point he begins to believe his wife may be reincarnated. Paul’s world of reality – a living Marietta – and his world of fantasy – his beloved Marie returning to live – begin to overlap. After a frenetic and chaotic vision of his world set into turmoil, the opera concludes with Paul waking from his dream and realizing that there is hope for him in the world of the living.
A repertoire piece since its double-premiere in Hamburg and Cologne, Korngold’s opera was given in 2004 a visual image to accompany his masterful music. Commissioned by the editor of the magazine “Spectakel Salzburger Festsiele Inside” for the Salzburg Festival 2004, artist Melanie Kreuzhof has produced an original artwork all at once depicting the elements, atmosphere, despair and hope conveyed by the opera, and the book that inspired it.
Born in the 1960s in Bad Kissingen (D) of Sinti/Roma (gypsy) ethnicity, Melanie Kreuzhof works in Mondsee, Austria. She was trained in computer sciences and photography, but is self-taught as an artist. Her first artworks were the result of a trial synthesis of her two professions in the early 1990s. Since then, the digital camera and computer have become her basic instruments for the modern acquisition of reality, as well as media for communicating her message – a stylistic device of surrealism and photorealism.
Melanie Kreuzhof’s style of presentation is new, unconventional and non-conforming, and she avoids classifying herself into any existing school of art. In 2003 she was personally invited to the “Biennale Internationale dell Arte Contemporanea” in Florence where she gained brilliant international acclaim. Her works are currently found in collections in the USA, Canada, Mexico, Italy, Monaco, France, Germany and Austria.
Ms. Kreuzhof was interviewed especially for the website www.korngold-society.org. For additional information about Ms. Kreuzhof, samples of her work, or to contact her, please log on to:
Troy Dixon (TD): How did the “tote Stadt” project begin?
Melanie Kreuzhof (MK): At the beginning of 2004, the editor of the magazine “Spectakel Salzburger Festsiele Inside” commissioned me to illustrate one of the 16 operas scheduled for performance during the 2004 Salzburg Festival – “Die tote Stadt” is the opera I selected.
Troy Dixon: Of the 16 opera to choose from, why did you decide on Korngold’s “Die tote Stadt” as the subject of your painting?
MK: I chose “Die tote Stadt” because, of all the operas being presented at the Festival that year, Korngold’s was the only one that had a “happy ending” to any real degree. I listened to the music and tried to “feel” the story behind the opera.
TD: Could you describe your unique approach to artwork? It’s called “massurrealism”, correct?
MK: Yes. “Massurrealism” is a combination of mass media and surrealism, both as a word and as an approach to creating artwork.
It is actually quite difficult to explain my kind of artwork. I take digital photos – in the case of “tote Stadt” I used nine photos – and then digitally compose the artwork in the computer. After I have something I like, I print out the edited composite on a large printer directly onto canvas. Then the canvas is attached to a wooden framework, and I paint on the picture with acrylic colors and work on the sleeve with objects and analogue collages. Right now there are only about 20 artists worldwide who work like this.
TD: By “objects”, do you mean real items?
MK: Yes – actual objects are added to the artwork. In the case of “Die tote Stadt”, I took three strings off my husband’s guitar and made them a central element, representing the reference to the lute in the opera. He was quite surprised when he tried to play his guitar the next time! The silken scarf and strand of hair are also real, secured to the picture. In this way I try to create artwork that one can not only “see” or “read”, but also “feel” and “touch”. The objects in my pictures and the overpainting with acrylic make them unique.
TD: The lute strings, scarf, and hair are all important symbols in Korngold’s opera. How did you select some of the other elements that we see in your final product?
MK: I took a photo of Bruegge in Belgium, where Paul, the protagonist, went after the death of his wife Marie. The female figure obviously represents the female elements in the story.
TD: When I look at the hand reaching from the water, I sense it is trying to grasp the ethereal female pictured above it, much as Paul is trying to reach out to his beloved Marie, no longer part of this world. Is this interpretation close to your vision when you composited the work?
MK: Yes, but I wanted to leave it open for the observer who is actually in the air-bubble, Marie or Mariette. The air-bubble stands for his dreams.
TD: You mentioned the “happy ending” of the opera –that must be the significance of the cloaked figure gazing to the horizon?
MK: Yes – finally Paul got out of his dream and found his way back to reality. He left Bruegge and focused on something new – not known yet – in the future. On my picture he does not look back, he just walks to the sunlight.
TD: The elements you’ve combined here all seem rather straight-forward – we haven’t really discussed or mentioned any abstract ideas, or “hidden” meanings…
MK: No. I usually refuse abtraction – reality is concrete and I try to get to the bottom of it by exaggerating it and by putting it in new contexts. My works have been described as mystic, analytical, fantastic, playful, brutal, visionary – art as a mirror of our time. Nature and love of life are embodied the same as satire and spirituality.
TD: I understand your husband took a special interest in this piece.
MK: My husband was so excited about my picture “Die tote Stadt” that he purchased it back from the people who commissioned it for the Festival. It is available for public display, however.
I remember throughout my life many instances where I found some tangent on a favorite subject or object that led unexpectedly to discovering a new attraction. When attending the Salzburg Festival in 2004, I came across Ms Kreuzhof’s work “Die tote Stadt” reproduced in the Festspiele magazine. There’s a certain attraction in the work that continually resurfaces each time I see it (I have a copy of the page from the magazine hanging near my desk). Remembering another time when certain album covers’ artwork led me to research that jacket artist and discover more about him, I thought there might be others out there in the world who might enjoy Ms Kreuzhof’s artwork, but might not ever find out about it; hence this article and interview. Hopefully someone out there browsing this website will “accidentally” discover they enjoy the works of this particular artist, making the above effort worthwhile.
- Troy Dixon