Located in a shallow pond on the west bank of the Grand River, Merchant’s time-based ArtPrize entry, “Movement” comprises several “hands” fashioned of plastic gloves that are installed floating on the water. Inside each hand is a small mechanism that allows it to move and turn freely through space. Each hand is illuminated from within, providing another interesting element.
“The rhythmic motion of the hands can be heard as they move, creating a mesmerizing and hypnotic sound,” said Merchant. “It makes each viewer’s experience unique.”
Although the piece may take on a variety of interpretations, Merchant said that it was designed to represent a movement: A group of people working together to advance their shared political, social or artistic ideas. His artist statement includes a quote by Helen Keller: “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”
“I hope the viewer is inspired to translate the artwork into their own life and current events in our society,” Merchant said.
The 28-year-old artist grew up in a secluded wooded environment and learned early on that all creatures play an important role. These early encounters may be seen in his artwork through large-scale depictions of insects, frogs and fish.
“I continued to expand on this idea by representing the relationships that are shared between man and the environment,” Merchant’s artist statement continued. “I often use subjective colors and distortion of scale to present an ordinary object in a unique way. It is my goal to connect with the viewer and create a kind of internal disturbance so that they are no longer viewing the art, they are experiencing the art.”
This is Merchant’s fourth year participating in ArtPrize and every year has been rewarding in its own way, he said. “I have had the opportunity to meet some great people and have had many constructive conversations about art. ArtPrize provides a unique platform to display artwork that would not normally be presented to the public on such a large scale.”
A graduate of the University of Michigan with a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts degree, Merchant currently lives in Grand Rapids. He studied printmaking and drawing, however his recent works include paintings, sculptures and installations. Merchant primarily exhibits in galleries throughout the state of Michigan and also has work on display in California as well as the United States Embassy in Botswana, Africa.