Out of the Frame
Mid America Print Conference University of Nebraska, 2004

A.Artaud questioned the aesthetics of the art object, he questioned the value of the end product separated form the mind and life that made it and views it. The static object hanging on a gallery wall limits and constrains the artist and relegates the artwork to a decorative and commercial context. Artists for more than a century have striven toward freeing themselves and their work from past cultural constraints. Artists have moved toward an art that reduces the distance between thought and audience, between life and imagination. Several years ago Christian Boltanski told me that he had made a work that was unrecognizable as art, he had taken the family photos from one persons house and replaced them with anothers family’s photos. The two families lived with histories and faces to which they had no connection and no visitors seemed to notice.

Bridging the Float World

See the mouse traps shaped like boats floating on a clam, vast and deep sea. The traps have all snapped shut, tight on the beliefs of the souls of the sailors who are invisible on their crafts. Floating in the sky overhead is a vast progression of cultural, political, social, natural, scientific, and indigenous forms hanging above the sea like a volleyball net. Let the game begin! even though the rules are as yet not written or clear to the players. Its Sunday and all will be well, today all will be well.




Vida Lita



Art of memory




pools of bleif



Goddard Gallery

Artist Statement

Humans were once defined as tool users, until it became apparent that even insects use tools. It is not solely our rationality that defines our uniqueness but also our irrational imagination. It is our ability to use all that is around us, the objects, the air, language and memory as poetic possibility. Everything we see, touch, do and remember is a poetic tool. For instance, when my 5 year old son takes the corkscrew off the table and it becomes a robot, a plane, or a universe, he is defining humanity though the infinite possibility of our poetic imagination. An imagination that is all to often schooled out of us.

Much of my studio work is an attempt to combine real first person experience and unrestricted poetic imagination. Over the past decade I have worked with incarcerated youths and inner city communities to guide these communities in producing personal archives which are exhibited in museums and community spaces as contemporary art works. In my prints, paintings and installations, in my private studio exploration I use my memory, experience and the collected visual resources of these first person interactions to guide, shade direct and inform the discover of surface and image in my studio work.

What is the outcome? What do I hope for? is beauty, deep sadness and hope.




HUGH MERRILL, explores his since of memory through portraits from several points of view including studio, collaborative and community strategies. “As a child I could not remember the names of the students in my class. It was not long till I understood that no one else had this problem and that they did not live in the world of Ghosts that I lived in. Today I do not know the faces or names of most of the folks working at the Kansas City Art Institute where I have taught for almost 40 years, people come up and talk to me and I have little idea of who they are. It is interesting that I have spent a great deal of my creative life trying to help others capture their lost memories, when I cannot help myself.

Portrait Of Self was a conceptual portrait project done with Christian Boltanski in 1991 to help inner city High School students examine their daily lives. Capture on a daily basis what they are doing, what they valued and what they spent their money on. These personal archives/portraits collected for over 16 weeks were exhibited at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art as part of the Boltanski exhibit, So Far 1991. “I worked very closely with these young people from Sumner Academy and the Paseo Academy of Visual and Performing Arts, when I look back at their pictures in my personal visual archives I do not know who they are. There are photos of them up in this exhibition. As well as photos of kids I have worked with from other urban communities for over 35 years and all are ghosts to me and I am Mr. Crazy to them. They like my non-haircut.”

The exhibition Ghosts at the Charno Gallery of the Kansas City Arts Collalitioncaptures the ghosts traveling through my life.