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Come put yourself into Melanie's paintings

Pleasanton artist exhibit can be seen this weekend in gallery on Main Street

An exhibit of Pleasanton artist Melanie Lacki's paintings will be on display today through March 18 at Studio7 Fine Arts gallery at 400 Main St. in downtown Pleasanton. Lacki, a nationally-known artist, has more than 50 of her paintings on exhibit at the special show.

She was a 3-year-old when she started painting, in high school when teachers said her talent was extraordinary and at the California College of Arts in Oakland when she perfected her style and began a career as an artist. Now, 33 years after she moved to Pleasanton and began to paint professionally in earnest,

Melanie Lacki--that's her professional name--grew up in Colorado and came west to the Oakland school, which was then called the California College of Arts and Crafts. She married Jim Lotz, who owns Lotz Realty in Hayward, and they raised their two children, Kristina Lotz Schafer of Petaluma and Joe Lotz of Pleasanton. Besides being a soccer and baseball and other youth sports mom, Melanie worked on her paintings in a studio the couple built behind their home off Foothill Road. A frequent traveler, she always carries along a little bag of basics, searching for landscapes, people and other scenery. Once she spots a scene to remember, she'll stop the car or pause while hiking, sit on the grass or a nearby bench and put what she sees to oil or watercolor that will live forever.

It's hard to look at her paintings on display at Studio 7 without thinking that I've been there or finding that a distant barn or fishing stream in her paintings reminds me of a long-age family farm or outing. In fact, Melanie's greatest satisfaction is having patrons tell her art restores memories of similar scenes and faces. Commenting last weekend on one of her Sierra landscape paintings, an admirer looked long and closely, saying "I can hear those trees and smell them." That's Melanie's secret: to create paintings that viewers can put themselves into or just want to go visit wherever it is that she's painted.

Melanie started painting in oils, but switched to watercolors in 1977 because of allergies she had with some of the enamels. In the 1980s, new paints and inks became virtually toxic-free, giving Melanie a chance to return to oils. Both mediums can be seen in her Studio 7 exhibit, where artists on hand can explain the different techniques. The subject dictates the medium, Melanie says, with the everyday people and places she paints connecting with the emotional aspect of the situation.

Known for her sense of color and design, Melanie's paintings are a symbiotic relationship of light, value and composition. As a testament to her sense of color, she was featured in a special article on color in American Artist Magazine. She has also earned signature membership in many watercolor societies, including the National Watercolor Society, an honor that distinguishes her as an outstanding artist and competitor. Her artwork also has been included in numerous books about and for artists, and she has held exhibits in galleries throughout the Bay Area as well as in St. Helena and Seattle. Her paintings have been showcased in prestigious exhibitions in museums and galleries across America and her paintings and limited edition Giclee prints have been included in art collections worldwide.

In response to a question asked when she opened her Studio 7 exhibit last weekend--"Why were you inspired to paint this particular subject?"--Melanie said an artist has to be touched by the subject emotionally, physically or spiritually and sometimes, of you're luck, all three. One painting she's truly proud of and one that is drawing many compliments is a smaller painting at the lower end of one long wall of Melanie's paintings. It's a painting of her daughter Kristina with her young son Cole, now 5. Since that painting, Kristina had a second child, Amy, now 3. With the four posed in front of the painting for a photo, I could see in Melanie's eyes that there will soon be a new painting to update the artwork of the growing family.

For more information, see Lacki's Web site at www.melanielacki.com.

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