Born in Cleveland, OH in 1971, Merrilee Challiss is an artist currently living and working in Birmingham, Alabama. Challiss holds a BA in Studio Arts from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, an MFA from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, and a Masters of Arts in Education in the Visual Arts, from UAB. She has received grants from Alabama State Council on the Arts, the Leeway Foundation, and the Verdant Fund.
A central question, integral to my practice, is How can art be used as a channel to elevate our level of understanding that everything is connected, so that we will learn to live in harmony with the land, other species and each other?
As a multi-media artist, my responses are meditations on these themes, manifesting through a variety of means (paintings, installation, animation, etc.). In my responses, the answer lies somewhere in the liminal realm, where art-making and spiritual practice overlap -- to repair the broken bond between human and nature and spirit. The knowledge, that everything going forward must be either an elegy for what we have lost or a celebration of what we have left, propels me forward.
Obsessive collecting, mark-making and handiwork often characterizes my way of making things, and by offering a prayer or breath of intention in between the placing of each sequin by hand, for example, the work has become more mindful. The artist’s role, much like that of the trickster, is to portal to the imaginal realms, tapping into the source of the collective imagination, and upon returning, to re enchant and heal the world.
Art is for me an alchemical, evolutionary process, a journey that is as much about inner work as output on the material plane. My practice manifests obliquely as many-tentacled inquiries down various side-canyons, exploring different ideas, materials, and processes as I go.
(Photo by Charity Rachelle 2018)