A gallery reception will be held at 7 - 9 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 16, featuring an artist's talk beginning at 7:30 p.m.
Merchant's work is non - traditional and yet timeless. She transforms contemporary materials through atypical means, such as carving, burning, and melting house insulation polystyrene and bioplastics. She also employs historical and ancient building techniques to create many of her pieces. For example, in such works as 'Step, in situ,' Merchant uses a rammed - earth building technique: a traditional form of building across many cultures and time periods whereby material is layered into a wall - form mold and then compressed to 50% of its original size. Merchant takes 'sediments' from her life - 'cereal boxes, my daughter’s shoes and dresses that she wouldn't take off, bills I had to pay, weeds we picked together on sunset walks, VHS tapes she watched 1,000 times ' - and then breaks, crushes, and shreds them. Merchant compresses this new raw sediment into wall molds that, when complete, create windows 'into the strata of our home and life and oikos.' The resulting works are haunting in their dual invocations of destruction and preservation - powerful metaphors for the fearful passage of time, nostalgia and memory that bring both loss and transformation.
In other works, such as Rebuild, Remain, Merchant 'casts' her own personal fossils. She might begin by crocheting a hat or doilies - markers of the feminine and childhood. She then dips them into ceramic slip and fires them in a kiln to fossilize them. Merchant embeds the results into a plaster or lath bed that become the core of her compositions and wall hangings. Domestic and personal forms become archeological discoveries that encourage contemplation and inspire a range of free associations.
Merchant’s artworks have been exhibited around the region, including in the 6th Annual Governor’s Biennial. She has also taken part in exhibitions at the South Dakota Art Museum, Washington Pavilion Visual Arts Center, the Apex Gallery in Rapid City, Black Hills State University, and is regularly featured in Sculpture in the Hills exhibitions in Hill City. Her recent solo exhibitions include at the Sturgis Public Library and Minnesota State - Fergus Falls. In 2015, her work was a part of Venice Edition III, Artemotion (vending machine) at the Venice Biennale.