Born in Cleveland, OH in 1971, Merrilee Challiss is a multi-media artist currently living and working in Birmingham, Alabama. Over a varied career, spanning several decades and including working as Art Director of Studio By The Tracks (a non-profit art studio providing free art instruction to adults on the autism spectrum), and co-owning and running a DIY music venue/ bar/ café (BottleTree Café) for a decade, she has lived and worked abroad in Berlin and Prague, and has shown work in far-flung places such as San Francisco, Portland, Phnom Penh, Miami, and shows regularly regionally in New Orleans, Birmingham, and Nashville. She holds a BA in Studio Arts from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and an MFA from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia. Challiss is currently pursuing her second Masters Degree in Education in the Visual Arts. She has received grants from Alabama State Council on the Arts, the Leeway Foundation, and the Verdant Fund (Andy Warhol Foundation).
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 (manifested in the form of images, objects, and installations) on these themes. For me the answer lies somewhere in the liminal realm of 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. My practice manifests obliquely in many-tentacled inquiries down various side-canyons, exploring different ideas, materials, and processes as I go. What I have posted on this site is a mere fraction of my work. If you would like to see more, please let me know. Enjoy!