Source Energy by Merrilee Challiss

Artist’s Statement:

My work is a meditation on the fact that everything going forward must be either an elegy (for what we have lost) or a celebration (of what we have left). Or both. My paintings picture my mind’s tableaux of imagined realms, abstracted from reality and real forms. The paintings are failures of my attempts to represent energy and consciousness in its various stages, respective to the subject.  What is left of our world, despite our best efforts to destroy it, is still rife with wonder and beauty, fecundity and meaning. I see all natural systems, Man, Animal, and Spirit as connected and constantly overlapping and co-existing on conscious and unconscious levels. I locate myself and my role as artist, in a meditative state, in the liminal realm between elegy and celebration, where the spirit and the unconscious trump our waking reality. 

"Death Is a Jewel Box" 15" x 15" Gouache on Paper
“Death Is a Jewel Box”
15″ x 15″
Gouache on Paper
"Uncanny Campground" 12" x 16" Gouache on Paper
“Uncanny Campground”
12″ x 16″
Gouache on Paper
“Me and My Shadow(self) 32″ x 42” Gouache on Wood Panel
“Weaver” 24″ x 24″ Gouache on Wood Panel
"Source Code (after Fela Kuti)" 15" x 50" Gouache on Wood Panel
“Source Code (after Fela Kuti)”
15″ x 50″
Gouache on Wood Panel
"Plant Spirit (after Castaneda)" 15" x 50" Gouache on Wood Panel
“Plant Spirit (after Castaneda)”
15″ x 50″
Gouache on Wood Panel
"The Journey Is Oblique" 50" x 15" Gouache on Wood Panel
“The Journey Is Oblique”
50″ x 15″
Gouache on Wood Panel
"Life Cycle of the Water Witch" 32" x 42" Gouache on Wood Panel
“Life Cycle of the Water Witch”
32″ x 42″
Gouache on Wood Panel
My Therianthrope Has Synesthesia" 32" x 42" Gouache on Wood Panel
My Therianthrope Has Synesthesia”
32″ x 42″
Gouache on Wood Panel
(On Mushrooms) at the Quarry" 22" x 30" Gouache and Ink on Paper
(On Mushrooms) at the Quarry”
22″ x 30″
Gouache and Ink on Paper
"El Purgador" 12" x 12" Gouache on Paper
“El Purgador”
12″ x 12″
Gouache on Paper
"Totem" 36" x 85" Gouache on Wood Panel
36″ x 85″
Gouache on Wood Panel

Merrilee grew up and studied studio art in Birmingham, Alabama. After getting a BA in Studio Arts 1n 1994, she bought a one-way ticket to Europe and ended up living in Prague for almost two years, living illegally and working many odd jobs (window decorator, book & paper maker, waitress). She was the co-founder of a collective of ex-pat artists living abroad, and put together two exhibitions while she was there. Upon returning to Alabama in 1996 she began working at Studio By The Tracks, an organization that provides free art instruction to “at – risk” youth and adults with autism and schizophrenia. She worked at SBTT until she went to Philadelphia for grad school in 1998 to attend the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, where she earned an MFA in Sculpture. She and a classmate from Germany developed a work-study program which brought Academy students together with underprivileged children, to provide to them free art instruction while their parents were in adjoining rooms meeting with various social services. The program received an official Citation and award ceremony with then Mayor McNutt. After grad school, while still in Philadelphia, Merrilee worked as an administrative assistant to four working artists, including Tom Judd, a painter, and Oswaldo Romberg, a conceptual artist and professor, and also worked as assistant to Helen Drutt, of Helen Drutt Gallery. She eventually came back to Birmingham, AL in 2002 to work once more at Studio By The Tracks, where she served as Art Director until 2006. She also co-founded a craft collective called Collarmoth, whose members showed at Renegade Craft Fairs both in Brooklyn and in Chicago. In 2006 she opened her own business, BottleTree Café, closed in the Spring of 2015, which brought musicians from all around the country (and world) to Birmingham. In 2013 Merrilee co-founded the Magic City Mural Collective, a group of artists and designers who aim to elevate the city’s aesthetic presence on the street level. Currently she is working full-time as an artist, maintaining a studio in her loft in downtown Birmingham, which she shares with three cats.