Thom Merrick’s world has grown from the merely big of the urban international to the enormous of the secluded local. After twenty years of living and working in art’s grand capitals of New York and the cities of Europe, producing art powered by the competitive energies of those environments, Merrick now creates art powered by his relationship to his own back yard. His back yard is the Mojave Desert.
Starting out as a painter, Merrick’s eventual interest in physical presence led him to create combinations of objects and pictures. This, in turn, led to experiments in sculpture and installation. Merrick’s work during this period gained critical attention and was exhibited by galleries and museums in New York and internationally. Dividing his time between New York and Europe, Merrick’s career was quickly becoming a successful one. Exhibitions continued; his work was collected by major venues in America and abroad.
But by 2001, New York’s daily expectations for art and life jarred out of sync with Merrick’s deepest self. The loan of a rarely used house in the California desert by his friend and fellow New York artist Jack Pierson proved the catalyst for the readjustment Merrick was looking for. In the Mojave, Merrick found grandeur no skyscrapers or up-to-the-minute art soirée could match. During an additional period in New York and another year in Europe, Merrick realized how deeply the experience of the desert had changed him. The decision to leave New York, though, was a difficult one. The city reigned as the major center of the American art world, a place where Merrick had established himself as an artist, and where he had important professional relationships and personal friends. But by 2003, Merrick’s need for change, personally and aesthetically, overwhelmed any doubts about wrenching free of New York, and he moved to the Mojave as a full time resident.
The desert, for all its vastness, has more tightly focused Merrick’s aesthetic. He has returned to the purity of painting. The physical dimension he once sought by applied or constructed means is now provided by the brute physicality of the desert itself: the incomprehensibly enormous space; the depth of time inside its massive rocks; the ruthless climate. Surviving these challenges, and seeing beyond the glaring light that washes out form and color and renders invisible the desert’s raw personality, Merrick has adapted the skills of the desert’s natural inhabitants and applied them to his art; he has developed a cunning eye and a quickness of movement to find and expose hidden colors, cooling shadows, dangerous or protective shapes. He must sometimes tease the truth from the desert by fooling it, by giving it colors that are “wrong,” forcing it to expose the secrets of its being.
Merrick’s aesthetic journey continues to evolve in a career which has garnered honors including the Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant, residencies at Yaddo in Saratoga, New York, discussions and reviews of his work in American and international periodicals, and continued exhibitions in the U.S. and Europe.