• Unseen Universe – D. Dominick Lombardi

    Date posted: January 26, 2007 Author: jolanta
    A lot has been written about Merrill Steiger’s paintings. References to aboriginal art, the meditative process of applying paint, the mandala, and that is all fine. But here, underneath the cover story, lie deep roots in pop art. Take, for instance, Mandala In Nature. The mandala in the middle, which is comprised of concentric prisms in ripples of liquid mercury, links a green cell menagerie to a gray and black panel of bullet holes; like what might appear in the side of a tank or airplane in one of Roy Lichtenstein’s paintings.

     

    Unseen Universe – D. Dominick Lombardi

    Image
    Merrill Steiger, Fire and Ice, 2006. Acrylic on canvas, 76″x144″ (48″d).

        A lot has been written about Merrill Steiger’s paintings. References to aboriginal art, the meditative process of applying paint, the mandala, and that is all fine. But here, underneath the cover story, lie deep roots in pop art. Take, for instance, Mandala In Nature. The mandala in the middle, which is comprised of concentric prisms in ripples of liquid mercury, links a green cell menagerie to a gray and black panel of bullet holes; like what might appear in the side of a tank or airplane in one of Roy Lichtenstein’s paintings.
        When viewing these paintings, I also think of the work of Erro. Erro, who spent his formative years in Iceland, came to address the contrast of his wondrous world through its similarities. Sort of like Steiger does.
        And Fire and Ice could be a painting about Iceland, which has an abundance of glaciers and volcanoes. But there is something else. Erro built his iconography through collage. He would often create a collage using volumes of popular culture minutiae, and then recreate those same collages on huge canvases, copying every square inch of imagery like a photorealist. Now this is not to say that Steiger is doing the same thing. But, there are collages here, and the works look like they are borne of that fragmented thinking, even if it is never an actual physical factor. It could just be the way she organizes her thoughts, separate and precise.
        This way of organizing her work seems to be the case in all of the multiple canvases. However, you see a different side of the artist in her single canvas works. Air Patterns, for one, has a more immediate, free flowing feel. It is formed from mood and emotion which, by contrast, are less precise and, here, simpler. Air Patterns also reminded me of the theatrical techniques of backdrop painting, with its quick wood grain and faded wallpaper effects. And this gets back to one of my earlier points. Steiger is a woman of contrasts. She uses her art to explore the world, while also accessing her inner voice. Here, imagery can be seen as stepping-stones across a vast, multileveled plane that traverses familiar, albeit elusive concepts, which, in turn, run back through a core of life energy and existence. And, whether my track of thinking is correct or whether one needs to view these works through a more spiritual filter, neither matters. What is important is that Steiger gets you thinking and gives you something to walk away with.

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