May 13, 2014–January 8, 2017

New York City

Late twentieth century

Colored pencil, pencil, and ink on paper

19 1/2 x 22"

Collection American Folk Art Museum, New York

Gift of Jacqueline Loewe Fowler, 2009.3.1

Photo by Gavin Ashworth

Melvin Way (b. 1954)


The word Singlair in the center axis of this drawing by Melvin Way can be interpreted as a conjunction of sing and lair. Interestingly, before his commitment to visual arts, Way was a bassist in local bands. His creations are also “refuges” of cryptic imagery combined with algebraic equations, chemical formulas, and diagrams, which recalls his early passion for science. Even when Way slips in clues like “AØ = God,” his indecipherable elaborate schematics defy a linear comprehension—not onlybecause of the randomness in the coded elements but also because of the unrelated plastic spaces in which they are inscribed. The saturated compositions display multidimensional architectural renderings, crosscuts of machines, mathematical environments, and electromagnetic fields. Their opacity is symbolically reinforced by Way’s use of tape, which partially seals the surface of each drawing. The artist once insisted that one should not experiment with the formulas contained in his pieces—usually postcard-size—because they are too powerful and dangerous.

Valérie Rousseau, “Singlair,” exhibition label for Self-Taught Genius: Treasures from the American Folk Art Museum. Stacy C. Hollander and Valérie Rousseau, curators. New York: American Folk Art Museum, 2014.