Emmett Merrill (Born 1993, Kansas City, MO) received his MFA from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in 2020. He manages the lithography studio at Grafik House, a fine art printmaking studio and co-operative located in downtown, St. Louis, MO. His prints can be found in the public collections of the Library of Congress, The New York Public Library, as well as the Guanlan Printmaking Museum. In recent years he has had solo exhibitions at Monaco USA, Buckham Gallery, Wonderfair and the Sheldon Arts Center. Since 2022, his work has been featured in 21 group and juried exhibitions across the country. He was awarded the Denbo Fellowship at the Pyramid Atlantic Art Center in Hyattsville, MD and also participated in a residency at Directangle Press in Bethlehem, NH, where he completed a series of risograph prints. He currently lives and publishes his work in St. Louis, MO.
The work uses the lithographic process to create narrative prints which combine Americana imagery with that of myth and legend. The prints deal with the emptiness of the American landscape, the derivation of ghost stories and local legends, objects of Art History, and the culture surrounding the highway system. The work also explores how time can move within a single visual space, similar to the way hieroglyphs exist as a contained image, but can be read in the same fashion as words on a page. Objects and foliage appear scattered along the ground in the works, as if a tornado whipped through a gas station and a history museum and all artifacts landed together in the same field.
The works are a series of visual ghost stories, each, in part, exploring the theme of the nature colliding with human made spaces, like a deer bursting through the windshield of a car. Nature in this case, isn’t just the idea of foliage, animals, or wide open landscapes, but also the presence of death. Deer along the side of the highway manifest this ghostly symbol. Their eyes illuminate headlights at night, driving in the dark, you can just barely make out their form in your peripheral as you speed by. Plus, it seems more common that we see deer dead than alive, lying on the side of the road from where they came, victims of our cars and freeways. Through out the series, ghosts are also personified as geese crashing into a bathroom window, a figure with mismatched socks under a sheet, as well as mysterious footsteps in the snow, walking away from someone who’s slipped beneath the ice. I think ghost stories are an exploration of the uneasy feeling of the unknown, not just the cliche of not feeling alone in a dark room, but also the excitement and anxiety of entering an unfamiliar building, landscape, town etc.
In his study of Kentucky folklore, “Ghosts Along the Cumberland” William Montell describes a farm worker who claims to have come across the ghost of a cow he had put down the previous week. He sees it in the field, goes to get his family, and when they return, the cow is gone. That’s the end of the story. I think the works have a similar sense of "ghost story”. It isn’t really any kind of cautionary tale, but more a study of the moment between someone in their day to day life experiencing the absurd, in whatever form. Then, when they try and share it with someone else, that thing is gone.