Alumna Tanya Merrill '18 in Solo Show at 303 Gallery
BY Catherine Fisher, December 22, 2021
Alumna Tanya Merrill ‘18 is featured in her first solo show at 303 Gallery in Manhattan. This exhibition is on view until December 16, 2021.
In this new selection of paintings, Merrill imagines an alternate timeline for the natural world by incorporating mythology, creation stories, science, agriculture, and the planet’s eventual demise. These paintings act as warnings, especially the series incorporating the ash tree in which the foliage goes from healthy to dead. In the natural world we see our histories but also our tumultuous present and unsure future.
According to the press release, “the artist utilizes art historical reference in aid of her premonition, reflecting on the evidence of human intervention in the record of painting through nods to Balthus, van Dyck, Constable and others.” This dialogue with great masters of painting lends her work credibility and by extension offers her interpretation of our climate crisis legitimacy as well.
Further, “the exhibition’s conceptual timeline begins with creation, both our world’s confounding beginning and the reverence of human creation that is motherhood and birth....the crow, an invented subject within Merrill’s folklore, appears as the all-knowing observer – an enduring witness to society’s manipulation of the land.” Here, Merrill’s stance becomes clear: the human-centric viewpoint is lacking. Perhaps there are better ways of looking at our world such as the birdseye view which, from far above, can see the interconnectivity of our environment.
Continuing onward in her chronology, “Merrill’s tale [begins to] focus on the looming loss of ecological diversity and species decline. Highlights include the painting Ash Tree Before It Faced Extinction, which comments on the fated history of the ash tree in North America, currently in rapid decline.” By incorporating current events and news, Merrill is able to put her work in dialogue with the myriad environmental issues we are facing today.
Merrill was born in New York City in 1987. She received her BA from Sarah Lawrence College and her MFA from Columbia University. Merrill presented a solo exhibition at Half Gallery, New York in 2020, and a solo exhibition at The Pond Society Shanghai in Summer 2021. Recent group exhibitions include Blum and Poe, Los Angeles; Gagosian Gallery, New York; and Clearing, New York. Merrill lives and works in New York City.