Painter Clayton Merrell combines the physical and the metaphysical in paintings that are contemplative and complex.
This Carnegie Mellon University professor of art has been creating since the late 1980s. He grew up outside of Pittsburgh, left for about 10 years, and has had his own studio since returning in 2000.
Merrell makes landscape paintings that encompass both the beauty and tragedy of the natural world. “I see my work as an attempt to create something like an honest contemporary landscape idiom,” he says. “Instead of simplistic picturesque tableaus of natural harmony, my work presents viewers with a world in which that harmony is undermined by conflict, order is complicated by chaos, and the delicate fabric of the natural world is stretched to the breaking point.” He wants to make a painting that conveys how beautiful our world is—and how broken. “I want them to be the same painting,” he says.
Having previously designed the terrazzo floor for the Pittsburgh Airport airside terminal, he’s recently completed the design for a terrazzo floor to be installed this summer in the Teresa Heinz Rotunda in CMU’s Heinz College.
“The design will create the illusion that the floor is an evening sky with time-lapse star paths arcing across it,” he explains.
He loves the sense of freedom and open-ended possibility experienced every time he starts a new painting. “And I love that the results of that solitary work turn into heartfelt human interaction due to the fact that other people connect with and want to spend time with those paintings,” he adds.
Merrell is represented by Concept Art Gallery in Regent Square. His work can be purchased online through Singulart and Saatchi Art.
Story by Corinne Whiting / Photography by Laura Petrilla
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