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Given her paintings’ psychedelic patterns and far-out color palettes, artist Melinda Hackett seems more like the product of a Haight-Ashbury commune than a white-glove Park Avenue address. Talk to Hackett about her work and this notion is furthered.
“I just want to go back to the days of peace and love and all that stuff,” says Hackett, who makes sure to hide at least one peace sign in each of her creations. Visit her studio, which is in her Greenwich Village town house that boasts a wacky backyard tree house (and was once owned by Talking Heads front man David Byrne), and the picture seems complete.
But Hackett’s roots are anything but bohemian: Born and raised on Manhattan’s Upper East Side to venture capitalist Montague Hackett Jr. and socialite-cum-photographer Linda Hackett (who was shot by WWD in 1963), the 49-year-old attended The Chapin School and the equally preppy Hobart and William Smith Colleges. “I’m still an uptown girl in many ways,” she says.
After college, she took a job as an editorial assistant at Town & Country, but soon decided to explore the world below 14th Street, specifically its art scene. “I decided I didn’t want to write about art, I wanted to make it,” says Hackett. And she did just that: Hackett co-founded a now-defunct gallery called Real Art Inc. in the East Village, earned an M.F.A. from Parsons School of Design and began selling her own work. Over the past two decades, Hackett’s signature bold, bright prints — for which she uses oil on canvas and watercolor — have garnered a cult following that includes Linda Wells as well as interior decorator Todd Romano, who scoops up Hackett’s work for his 10021 clientele. “People in Florida like my stuff, people out West like my stuff,” says Hackett. “It’s all over the map.”
Hopefully people in the Hamptons will like her stuff, too. On Aug. 31, the artist’s latest show will open in Southampton’s 4 North Main Gallery. Called “Paumanok” (a Native American word for “Long Island”), the exhibit was inspired by sights and scenes on the East End, where Hackett has spent her summers since childhood. (Titles for the show’s pieces include “Wyandanch” and “Montauk.”) “It’s light and summery,” she explains.
And that’s about as deep as Hackett is willing to get when it comes to her work. “I can’t label it,” she says. “I just know it makes people happy.” Groovy.
“Paumanok”; Aug. 31 to Sept. 6; 4 North Main Gallery, 4 North Main Street, Southampton, N.Y.; 631-283-2495; melindahackett.com.