Blogs, new artwork, and other updates from sculptor Douglas W. Merkey

Musings on art, beauty, culture, aesthetics, and the spiritual life by wood wall sculptor Douglas W. Merkey.

Bring on the color!

I can really relate to photographer Jad Davenport’s artistic journey from a black-and-white to a color aesthetic:

I didn't set out 20 years ago on a quest to photograph the color of the sea. I'd spent the previous decade photographing wars and genocides from El Salvador to Iraq, documenting what felt like a million shades of gray on black-and-white negatives. I was just back from documenting the war in Kosovo when a sympathetic editor offered me an assignment in the Dominican Republic, for a travel magazine. "Just bring me back some pretty pictures of the sea," he said.

I took the assignment. I brought color film. I went snorkeling, drank rum, and swam in the sea. And I came back with pretty pictures.1

Like Jad, most of my sculpture up through my mid-40s lacked color. It’s not that I didn’t like color, I just didn’t do anything to alter the natural colors of the wood, bronze, and clay I used in my sculptures. During those same years, I was also involved in some very hard vocational contexts and other difficult life experiences…not exactly photographing wars and genocide like Jad, but experiencing much hardship nonetheless. So, in some ways, I felt the gnawing ache of a life lacking in “color” overall.

And then, around age 45 or so, I literally declared, “I am going to explore color!” This was more than an aesthetic decision. It was a life decision. It involved making some significant changes across my life - from monochromatic living to more color-full living. By God’s grace, new worlds - colorful worlds - have opened up to me. This website is a testimony to how color has shown up big time in my sculptural life.

In fact, I felt I needed to write about this because I just finished my most color-full piece to date: Ribbon Candy (thanks to my buddy Paul for the name). It’s got more color and more POP than any sculpture I’ve ever created. I even used a high-gloss finish to accentuate its “pop!” I still enjoy the natural tones of unstained wood, and of bronze and clay without a patina, but I’m so grateful that God’s been opening up my art and my life to the wonderful world of color.

Doug MerkeyComment