Mark Ezra Merrill
As a Painter, I want to challenge my perception. What can be observed can also be manipulated. What is un-known sometimes becomes known, just as what has already been seen is often forgotten. Uncertainty is timeless and resolute. The most puerile act of the painter is an action of both seeing and remembering. My process is deeply dependent on the sublimation of this value, this expanding or contracting of uncertainty.
As an American, I hope to refine my critical awareness. Our Nation State is set on edge by the continual threat of cultural uncertainty. Our lives, night after night, day after day, are devalued by a carefully commercialized and marketed identity of image, product, and entertainment distracting us from seeing what we could see if we truly wanted to.
Tip Top Studio
Thanksgiving Day November 27, 1997. The studio in the Tip Top Bakery, a prominent but dilapidated feature of old downtown White River Junction, is inherited in a somewhat obscure lineage by painter Mark Ezra Merrill. The 1600 sq ft studio, formerly the Muffin Room, includes leaking ceilings and a still dripping lard pipe. The building was purchased and renovated by Matt Bucy in 2000, currently the Tip Top Media & Arts Building, it now serves as a vibrant example of ingenuity foreshadowing the coming renaissance of downtown WRJ.
Early Works1997 - 2001 The first series of work begun was less a continuation of previous work begun in San Francisco, and more a conceptual adaptation of my immediate environment. The initial concept was to paint smooth layers of glass-like translucent colour onto medium size square canvases. This idea was interrupted each night, as the train line running Montreal to NYC shook the poor building so to cause flakes of paint, dust and other falling debris to attach to my canvases. Abandoning the daily ritual of trying to remove these tiny flakes and particles with a pair of tweezers that I kept beside my easel, I began to explore more textural themes with a style that ultimately took on a more metaphorical narrative.
The Constructivist Style, works adapting allegorical themes of Egyptian creationism (NU, East West Wolf), Greek mythology (Oedipus Invert), and of course the late great neo-pagan/christian tradition (Annunciation, Crucifixion, Resurrection: Further Evolutions Of The EWW) created from industrial debris and found objects including - wire, metal and electrical conduit, a deconstructed 1971 cadillac limousine, latex molds, wax, polyurethane, ceiling tile, chicken wire, home appliances (deconstructed refrigerator, misc. appliances, etc.), rail road artifacts, gravel, paint, lead paint, lead, unknown objects, misc. objects, tar, tar and aluminum, paper, particle board, orange peelings, sticks and stems, fluids, other fluids, clothing, rubber molds, rubber tubing, molded plastic, industrial molds, misc. plastic, plastic sheets, plastic flowers, plastic masks (clown, devil, wolf), rolodex, time-clock, large intercom speaker box, holographic images on mylar, etc. - is permanently interrupted when renovation are completed on the Tip Top building, early spring of 2001. During this period work continues on collages, digital imagery, and several small pen & ink, water colors, and other small drawings initiated mostly of Egyptian themes.
A New Gesturalism
2002—2008 Spurts of productivity produce several random series of large loosely connected and stylized paintings. Work continues at the Tip Top in the new Studio 260. After false starts and failed attempts of a more minimalist approach to the constructivist style with works such as "Imbolic" and "Oedipus Invert", somewhat obstinate and apprehensive I return to a more purist idea of painting. Experiments with oil on canvas lead to a more primitive or gestural technique where the brush is abandoned in order to apply the medium in a most direct means possible - usually hands and fingers. While narratives are still explored, a gesturalist style implies a much less linear thematic approach to painting. Several series or styles of gesturalism were initiated during this six year period. Industrial enamel produced deep colors with a smooth glass like surface, drying overnight this medium became highly desirable, yet its use was overwhelming controversial due to it high toxicity basically fuming out the entire building. Eventually, I was asked to discontinue the use of industrial enamels, which I reluctantly complied. Encaustic methods were explored in both the constructionist and gestural works. The last encaustic work, "Trilemma", was completed between 2002-03. "Honey Moon in June", "Truth as Lie", "Intention as Meaning", "True Abstract", "Untitled 21", "Untitled 22", and "Death of Van Gogh in Vermont" represent the last series of work in the Tip Top studio, and are perhaps the most successful examples of a gesturalist style.
Painting and/or Conceptual Art?
2002 - 2008The Inverse of Reason Sometime ago one of the local transients passing through White River Junction took a fancy to stopping by and showing me his new pen and ink drawings - small and incredibly detailed mostly floral and flowers meticulously etched on writing cards with colored ball point pen. Things became a bit escalated and he was escorted off the property never to be seen from again. Phaidon 20th Century Art Book as a small thank you gift for scanning some his images and making copies so he could bring them around town and show them to people and then hopefully generate some income. I don't know where things went wrong but they did. My friend set up a card table in the lobby of the building and would sit there for an hour or two each day with a 100 of these crazy renderings. I believe he became agitated with on-lookers and eventually became irate when they would not fulfill their potential of becoming buyers. I had explained to him quite early on that I was a poor artist myself and couldn't afford buying anything other than my tubes of paint. Later on I was flipping through his book and it struck me that the information presented was laid out almost resembling the abbreviated symbols of chemical elements. The conclusion of this thought manifest in the exhibition entitled Born Free Radicals.
Twin Stars It wasn't long before the need to work beyond the limitations of oil on canvas would produce yet another on-going series of paintings incorporating the idea of an image as symmetrical and asymmetrical vantage points. This particular group of paintings as self referential diptychs explores variables by expanding the theme of the static image as seen through a distillation or distortion of time. The fist in this series is the Twin Stars and concludes with the last painting of the Tip Top era Truth as Lie and Intention as Meaning.
A Long Time Ago Is The Future Perhaps my seminal work in the vein of Conceptual Art, A Long Time Ago is The Future, delivers one final statement about the controversies and mysteries of our own human nature. The substance of life is a fluidity experienced by a non-linear arrow of time exposing the inner conflicts and the vulnerability of emptiness. And it's now evolve or die at the hands of Evolution and Death and its signal dimension of space.
Where to Begin? It is likely that I never included the possibility of designing fashion wear into the sphere of my creative output for one simple reason - it was always "just as plain as the noise on my face." Thankfully this idiom doesn't hold true for long, but in my case long enough. Here at the intersection where the ideals of western classical art meet the fashion industry's flare of textile design and commerce could erupt another big bang (and apparently there already have been a few).
April 10, 2010 was the first time I sat down at a sewing machine, though I had been consistently returning to designing 'looks' on paper since 2008. This is neither a boast nor plea for mercy, just simple fact. Honesty, I might acknowledge someday that I've perpetuated a rather delusional belief in my own ability, but what else is there, really? Nowhere I've found for me is there better proof of this capability, than in fashion design. Just the skill set alone that's needed to execute a competitive and worth while product keeps you on our toes. And the arch stretching the distance between the conceptual phase of design and its execution is vast.
Revolution Runway April 22, 2012 marks the 20th season of Tip Top Couture a fashion benefit sponsored by Revolution Vintage of White River Junction, Vermont. I have contributed designs for the past five seasons working with various models and photographers. In general my 'looks' have been well received. I initiated a line for local retailers in July 2012.