By: Melissa Newfield
Why are so many artistic souls born in or drawn to New Mexico? Perhaps we find so many talented artists in our neck of the woods because New Mexico is fertile with ideas and images that inspire sublime creations. People who grow up in such grandiose surroundings might be more inclined to see that art is something we are compelled to participate with in Santa Fe. Likewise, one of our favorite local artists, Christopher Merlyn has lived in Santa Fe for much of the last 20 years, and the timbres of his work bespeak an artist inspired by the colorful beauty and visuality of our colloquial art here in the City Different.
Merlyn has found inspiration nearly everywhere from urban settings to the most refined of exhibitions having grown up between New Mexico and California. He received art supplies from his godfather, a European artist. His father had a talent for painting and his mom was a writer and member of the gallery exhibition world. With these influences, he was instilled with the idea that making art is everyone's personal responsibility: "I think it was just embedded from a young age that it’s something you should do, whether you’re trying to be serious about it or not."
This busy artist works as a kindergarten Educational Assistant with Santa Fe Public Schools. Some of us struggle to find the time for creative endeavors while continuing with another profession, but Merlyn has the opposite issue: lack of stimulation. To keep that right-brain juice flowing, he spontaneously creates and sells framed art as well as doing commissioned mixed-media art for people here and all over the country. In the tradition of an artistically well-rounded soul, Merlyn has also written and published a memoir that he calls a "literary trunk tape" in 2017. He is a musician as well, sometimes writing sheet music, sometimes performing with the help of his trusty keyboard. Nowadays, he often paints Christian images but takes a different approach. He says his works come "not from a place of devotion. It's more the aesthetic. I like religious iconography. The architecture of the structures, the stained-glass windows, and sculptures, etc. I just think it’s cool. Most of the artists I was paying attention to as a kid were always dabbling with that subject matter." Working mostly with acrylic on canvas, Merlyn invites the viewer to rethink some preconceived notions about these icons and how they might identify with them.
Another genre of painting this artist dabbles in he calls an intention piece. Basically, he says, " You hold a certain thought or recite something while applying paint to the canvas. The base was black and red, but I put a variegated wash over it. " This untitled work is much different than some of his others, but really indicative of the energy present in much of his art.
Merlyn draws influence from several local and global artists. Citing James Lofton as a strong educational presence for him: "(Lofton) passed away a while back but I owe most of what I know about painting to him." His friend, Esteban Bojorquez is held in the highest esteem: "There’s nothing that guy can’t do." Carlos Carulo, Sergio Moyano (an artist who ArtHub of Santa Fe has worked with in the past) Chadney Everett and Katy Kidd are "amazing local artists" whose work Merlyn also admires.