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Francis Merrigan

Studio Art Building 017

Overstated Black Squiggly Print #5
, photolithograph, 14" x 14" © 2007

Overstated Black Squiggly Print #2
, photolithograph, 14" x 14" © 2007

Artist Statement

I am certain of nothing but of the holiness of the Heart’s affection and the truth of Imagination. What the Imagination seizes as Beauty must be truth- whether it existed before or not.

John Keats, in an 1817 letter to Benjamin Bailey.

In my own art I have undertaken a quest similar to Keats’, though instead of using words to express these ideas, I rely on the tools of my calling: line, color, shape, and form. My work has always been about the journey to find truth, perfection, and beauty, as well as the belief that the evolution of the mind is possible by means of disciplined practice.

The formal elements of my art are chosen with infinite care, free from unnecessary exposition and completely defenseless in their simplicity. I intend my art to be an image of beauty signifying a deeper purpose that I interpret as a spiritual intent, manifest in the sense that for every freedom there is sacrifice, or even submission.

Some years back I had the good fortune to hear the composer John Cage address a small group on the topic of Marcel Duchamp and the Dadaist movement’s influence on contemporary life. I left the lecture with a kindled desire to explore image making as an event, and to learn more about Cage, especially with regard to his thoughts on chance operations and random happenings. My interest soon concentrated on these practices. I was especially fascinated by how Cage assigned a set of rules and/or limitations to a given situation allowing random occurrences to happen in the work. His process struck me as an elegant example of the concept of art as event, and I found in it an embodiment the quiet truth, perfection, and beauty I had been seeking.

By merging processes with event, I free my work from the mind and instill in it its own truth. By giving myself an arena in which to work, and a set of rules with which to work, I allow whatever may happen to happen. I continue to democratize my process and materials, believing that if my process reveals itself and can be reproduced by others my work will become egoless, and thus beautiful. I strive to allow my work to speak to the viewer on his or her own terms, and to dictate as little signifying narrative as possible.

During childhood, I visited the nearby Hancock Shaker Community many times. I was enchanted by the simplicity of the Shakers’ surroundings, which I realize was in part due to their acute sense of design. I am reminded of a saying by Mother Ann Lee, founder of this utopian Sect, “Put your hands to work and your hearts to God.” My work attempts to adhere to the spirit of her words.

Squiggly Line Drawing
, ink on mylar, 40" x 46" © 2002

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