Eli Merritt
Eli Merritt

Artist



WorkArtist StatementCurriculum VitaeQ & A with Eli













"Using found objects ranging from delicate fabrics to rusted farm tools, my sculptures emerge from seemingly opposing elements guided together to create a single form. Underlying each piece is the desire to give meaningful, unified existence to inanimate matter. The works presented in this portfolio demonstrate my learned and inherent understanding of formal sculpture, the nuances of building with mixed media, and creative foresight. The representational nature of the work along with recognizable, everyday objects, intend to make the sculptures accessible and relatable to a broad and inclusive"

-Eli Merritt
-2017-    
“Temporality”
Solo Show
West Stockbridge Ma
   
“Fight or Flight”
Group Show
Congruent Space
Chicago IL

-2016-    
“Art is Home II”
Group Show
Curated by Gallery @ 46 Green Street Studios
East Hampton NY

“SAP”
Group Show //Curated
Chicago IL

“Art Is Home”
Group Show
Curated by Gallery @ 46 Green Street Studios
East Hampton NY

-2015-    
“New Anatomies”
Group Show
Iridium
Chicago IL

“Open Till Tomorrow”
Group Show
Chicago IL

“Tear along the Dotted Line”
Group Show
Chicago IL

“Menagerie”
Solo Show
Gallery @ 46 Green Street Studios
Hudson NY

-2014-    
Group Show
Pittsfield Arts Festival MA
Lichtenstein Center
   
-2013-    
Group Show
Chatham Church NY

-2012-   
Solo Show in Outdoor Pavilions
Art Omi NY

Solo Show
Atrium of Berkshire Hall
Margaret V. Beattie Award for Excellence in Art
Berkshire School MA

When did you first make art?

My mother and father were  are both very artistic. They and put a pencil in my hand and I could draw before I could walk. My mom is a screen printer and a quilter and my dad was a glass blower turned inventor. I’m sure I’m not the only one, but my mom still has my childhood scribbles posted around her house.
 
 When did you first realize you were an artist?

I first realized I was an artist when I went to a show at the Norman Rockwell museum and it was all collages on a white board drawn by the artist Danny O. In my spirited youth, I thought the piece was interactive, so I began to draw on the board as well. Immediately, I got stopped by the guards and reprimanded by my teachers. Danny O was called to the gallery to assess the damages, but instead of yelling at me, he scolded my teachers for making me feel guilty about being creative. It was a surreal scene and was one that put me on the path to becoming an artist.


What was the first show you did?

My junior year of high school at Berkshire School, I had two shows around the same time. In one, of them I proposed a solo show in the Atrium in Berkshire Hall of some of mostly animal sculptures that I had made at school. Simultaneously, I had a show at Art Omi in Ghent NY, where I had this huge nest of debris and branches in which a pelican was nesting. It was a fresh budding body of work but the process of organizing for art show and pursuing OMI was valuable in-and-of-itself.

 
Who were the people who have given you positive feedback?

Aside from my parents and Danny O, my high school art teacher Mrs. D’Arco who actually gave me her personal office for a sculpture studio. That really made me grow as an art maker. It was the first real sign of outside confirmation that what I was doing was legit. My early shows at Berskshire School and Art OMI were exciting and stimulating and helped me see I was on the right track.  Getting accepted at art school in Ohio Wesleyan University was a big boost too, although I knew they wanted me for my athleticism for the lacrosse team as well. All along the way, I’ve had wonderful patrons acquire some of my pieces and commissioned me to make art which has been incredibly encouraging.  The year I spent working in isolation in Westbridge, local town people would stop by my studio and view my work and provide me with support and encouragement.  The solo show “Menagerie” at Gallery at 46 Green Street Studios in Hudson NY in 2015 was a turning point for me.  It was there that the gallery sold the bulk of my inventory at the opening reception and I was commissioned for a large sculpture for an Estate in Western MA. I was over the moon. From there, my applying and gaining acceptance at School of the Art Institute of Chicago was a dream come true.  My time and experience there has stretched me as artist, and has challenged me to become an artist at the top of my game.  The value of this experience and the support, encouragement, evalution and positive feedback from the quality professors and students proves to be a rich, lively and deepening experience every day.
 
When did you first make a sale of a piece?

The first piece I sold was a red “Lobster” sculpture that I made while in school in Ohio. It was made with found objects and any red items that my fraternity brothers could spare. I ended up selling it to a guy on a motorcycle traveling through West Stockbridge. We bargained for a couple minutes, and I was so excited that I probably let him talk me down more than I should have.
 
How do you use your hands?

My hands have always been my favorite tool in the studio. I tend to abuse them a lot because the materials I’m working with have rough edges and are non-orthodox. I feel like I can identify the essence of the object before I recognize its overall purpose for the sculpture. The pieces almost have a mind of their own and I am just the conduit for which they are able to communicate their true meanings. A lot of the materials I use are recycled so they had a previous life and now have this incredible opportunity to be loved once again. That privilege of giving a chance to an object, the love that is given, is usually reciprocated in the work.
 
What drives you to make art?

Like I said, I went to school to play Division 3 Lacrosse at Ohio Wesleyan University. I had chosen to go there because of the prestigious lacrosse team but also because the sculpture facilities were incredible. So, there I began to live the dual life of an Athlete/ Artist. The splitting of my time eventually became too big of a conflict and after two years my coach called me into his office to choose between the team or the studio. It was a quick decision and I was cleaning out my lacrosse locker. Soon after this choice, I spent all my time in the studio filled with a new burning hunger to prove to myself as an artist and that I’d made the right decision. As a result, my grades slipped, so the school revoked my scholarship and I declined to return the following year. I returned to my studio in West Stockbridge to make art.
 
Talk about the winter where you were isolated making art and self-portraits.

After leaving Ohio, I found myself isolated in West Stockbridge that winter with nothing but my treasured detritus to keep me company. I started growing a handlebar mustache and also began doing weekly self-portraits in order to document myself as well as practice renderings. It gave me an assignment that was unlike anything I was used to doing in the studio. That winter I also made art like mad… building up a Menagerie of animals among other sculptures.
 
Talk about your first solo show.

My first solo show was Menagerie at Gallery @ 46 Green Street Studios in Hudson New York. It was a culmination of two years worth of work and the first true test of myself as the complete artist. It was the rush of talking to patrons, describing my process and also taking a proud second to appreciate the labor involved in everything behind the scenes.
 
Talk about your first year at School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

My first year at School of the Art Institute of Chicago was filled with excitement, but it was beyond a doubt a year for me to prove to myself that I was really cut out for this. I stayed in my room most of the year and it became known as the “fabrication laboratory” or Fab Lab. I had two shows in Chicago in collaboration with a clothing store “Iridium” and I developed a great relationship with the owner and he offered to hang on to two of my larger pieces in an effort to advertise them for me.
 
Talk about your second year at School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

The second year marked a great growing period, I began connecting more with professors and grad students as well as curated a show with some of my contemporary artists at my school. I had a large-scale end-of-year show at a new gallery called Congruent Space, it was a show shared with my roommate, Liam Wilson. We plan on doing another show at Congruent Space in the spring of 2018.
 
Talk about participating in “Art is Home” the Gallery @ 46 Green Street Studios art exhibit in the Hamptons.

“Art is Home” was eye opening. To see that level of cooperation and celebration of the arts under one roof was astonishing to see outside of the traditional art system, like a school or a guild. It was romantic in a sense that I haven’t experienced before, much like the way a concert hall is romantic to a musician. It is a place dedicated to appreciating art, filled with people who actually do. It was a tremendous experience.
 
Talk about being represented.

I am very fortunate to have been able to work with a driven team of gentlemen who are led by my art rep/manager Dave Schwing. I have been able to work with them over the past two years to develop a plan for showing and for success in the future. I have had a solo show in Hudson as well as three group shows in the Hamptons in which we found success, all because of the energy that was behind the event and the pieces.
 
Talk about 2107 summer goals.

This summer I have been working on my experimental projects as I have some valuable free time away from assignments. I will be making a series of smaller found-objects sculptures that emphasize the skills I have collected at school. This series is much cleaner and monochromatic than past works. The experimental works deal with deeper rooted continuous motifs that I have found evident in works, such as bundles, harvests and scars.  The summer will culminate with a pop-up event, “Temporality”, a solo show curated by Gallery at 46 Green Street, and located in my hometown of West Stockbridge MA. 
 
Talk about your goals over the next two years.

Over the next two years in Chicago I will be working on getting into the more advanced residency programs like Skowhegan and others like it around the US and the world. I will also have two more large scale shows at the end of my junior and senior year, respectively. I would like to work towards showing with organizations like Threewalls in Chicago. On the technical side, I would like to invest a lot of my time working in the kinetic realm of sculpture, breathing much anticipated life into the works.