Human Figures,  Fans,  Masks and Parasols

     Merry used models in staged and spontaneous shoots. These negatives were combined in the darkroom using complex techniques similar to photoshop layers. Had she lived longer, Merry would have enjoyed digital editing. But it is difficult to imagine her work without seeing the physical prints and hand made photographs.  Realism and women re-imagined are major themes. Recognizable human figures prevailed along with clever abstractions in works such as Bésame Mucho.  Fans, mask and  parasols were part of the feminine mystique that is central to Merry's work. "I am  woman, watch me roar" ( credit to Helen Reddy) was an important concept for Merry and a whole generation.

 My First Three Husbands, 1987
My First Three Husbands, 1987

This is a straight print from a single negative using 35 mm Kodak infrared film. Merry and her husband, Tom had been shooting all day. Tom was tired and hungry when he finally located Merry in this abandoned shed. With hands outstretched he announced that he was ready to go home. Merry said, hold that pose. Always visually aware, she instantly saw possibilities with light and form.

Bésame Mucho   1984
Bésame Mucho 1984

Black and white multiple negatives toned hand colored collage The title refers to a song, "Bésame Mucho" written by Consuelo Velazquez in 1940. By the 1990s it was recognized as the most frequently performed Mexican song. Bésame Mucho means "kiss me a lot" and has become a favorite bolero dance/song. The Beatles re-interpreted the song in English and included it in the film "Let It Be". Many other artists have recorded Bésame Mucho, a captivating love song.

Scent Orient II     1985
Scent Orient II 1985

Approximately 24x30 inches, this is a large scale work exploring the concept of feminine complexity with symbols and transitions. The image is a single, black and white negative that has been printed with two small framed sections. It looks like two smaller photographs are on top of a larger photograph. The airbrushed cast shadows help create this illusion. The reds, greens and browns were added with paint. The bottom section of the bottom fan is an actual fan attached to the photograph.

Echo of an Interesting Woman,   1982
Echo of an Interesting Woman, 1982

About 36 inches wide and 14 tall. The whole title is "Echo of an Interesting Woman as Princess Nefret", 1982 (Nefret, daughter of Khufu) It is a black and white, silver gelatin print that has been toned and hand-painted. Some of the soft edges were done with airbrush. The butterfly, transformation and time are some of the ideas evident here as well as the visual awareness of the eyes that stare in several directions.

Dance Hall Mona, 1979
Dance Hall Mona, 1979

This is photograph was shot in Greenville, S. C. at the home of an "outsider artist" who collected a wide variety of objects. The black and white photograph of a statue and ivy was painted and stitched onto a photo of black fabric Real feathers were applied as a small hat. The archaic Greek-looking face recalls a Kore figure with the typical sedate smile. It also references Mona Lisa's smile. The symbolism allows for many interpretations.

Sol y Luna,     1985
Sol y Luna, 1985

This is a black and white, silver gelatin print made on Merry's favorite paper, Agfa Portriga. The color she added was often Marshall oil colors but she also used Dr. Martin's and many other brands. In this image, night/day, yin/yang, concealed/ revealed and other intriguing juxtapositions were used. The wide-open eyes add humor.

Caribbean Christmas        1982
Caribbean Christmas 1982

Merry's interest in New Orleans and Mardi Gras was explored in lots of readings and correspondences with one of her mentors, Clarence John Laughlin. Here she creates her own version of Christmas symbolism. It is a multiple negative, black and white print with red, yellow and green paint applied by hand. Real ribbons were attached to flow seamlessly with the illusion created with painted ribbons.

 Always Unlocked ,    1994
Always Unlocked , 1994

This is a striking piece that Merry produced in her last year. It is a symmetrical photograph of a stark white skeleton's torso ( the rib cage). In the center (heart) is a open door that is meticulously constructed. Small ocean pebbles, that a friend gathered between the tides, are in the threshold. Beyond the pebbles is a semi-circular photograph of an infinite sea that softly fades into fog. The calm water has one set of concentric rings. The door is framed with 3-d wings made of feathers.

Double Fan,    1980
Double Fan, 1980

Symmetrical images made by flipping the negative was a technique often used by Merry. This is a black and white photograph that was toned in Berg blue and then hand tinted.

Bethanne's Fans
Bethanne's Fans

Black and white single negative toned hand colored 1980s Shot in Winston Salem.

The Absinthe Drinker         1976
The Absinthe Drinker 1976

Multiple negatives, black and white print that was hand colored. One of Merry's best friends was the photographer Anna Tomczak.

Another Way to Leave a Room     1980
Another Way to Leave a Room 1980

Light painting is a technique that Merry used and often taught in workshops. It involves a dark space where the subjects are lit with flash lights. This image- a black and white, gelatin silver print that was toned in blue and then hand painted.

Not a Dream        1980
Not a Dream 1980

Several techniques are involved with this image. Multiple negatives were used to make a composite print. Light painting was used to create some of the negatives. Blue toner and paint was applied.

Bette Davis Eyes      1982
Bette Davis Eyes 1982

About 36 inches tall and 14 inches wide. This piece celebrates being female and feeling beautiful with fabulous clothes shown on elegant models. Merry had movie-star good looks and often wore exotic outfits to art openings. The Hollywood glamour girls of the 1940s were studied by Merry. She particularly enjoyed the non-traditional stars such as Bette Davis whose huge eyes made her a natural for horror movies. - Multiple negatives in the composition with hand coloring -

Not so Little Dorothy    1987
Not so Little Dorothy 1987

This is a single negative of black and white that has been hand-colored with added glitter. Merry called it sparkle dust. The famous red "Mary Jane" slippers of Oz are dynamic high heels in this new interpretation. The simple almost vacant composition is charged with energy and humor. Merry loved re-interpreting myths as in this yellow brick or concrete road.

Hind Sight      1982
Hind Sight 1982

This is a composite print of multiple black and white negatives. Toning and hand coloring were used. Having eyes in the back of one's head was a concept that Merry enjoyed revising as in the following: Back of one's head Back of one's Back

 Cold Hands, Warm Heart      1993
Cold Hands, Warm Heart 1993

- 1993 - Merry won a grant to use one of the rare large-scale (20 x 24) Polaroid cameras. Merry's cancer had spread and the outlook was grim. Coming to terms with that tragedy was the theme of this series. This symmetrical self portrait shows Merry wrapped in winter coat, hat and gloves. The only recognizable part of her is the lower 2/3 of her face. The focal point is a heart shaped, lit, red candle - front and center. Her heart forever warm.

Dali's Nursery       1978
Dali's Nursery 1978

Black and white, multiple negatives, hand colored with many stitched sections. This iron bed has been turned into a soft looking stuffed toy because it is surrounded with blue stitching. The wall paper contains Disney characters. At the center is the raised hand of a manikin holding a gold watch that reads 8:50. Dreams begin here?

Self Portrait in a Rose Garden  1980
Self Portrait in a Rose Garden 1980

This is a single black and white infrared negative that was made into a silver print, and hand colored. After mounting it on dark mat board, Merry wrote a narrative about the creative journey that she traveled while making this piece. The shot was taken at Biltmore House in Asheville, NC. A miniature, dried rose is collaged onto the bottom edge with a ring of thorns.

Fuschia Flips         1987
Fuschia Flips 1987

Black and white infrared, multiple negatives. Hand colored. Summer sun and Kodak infrared film were two of Merry's favorite combinations. Here she explores the ideas of twos such as color vs black and white....daylight vs moonlight... Shot in Highlands, NC

 Buried in the Sand, 1985
Buried in the Sand, 1985

Merry studied surrealist art and was particularly influenced by Clarence John Laughlin. Figures emerging from walls or other transformations of the figure were ghostly and fascinating. This composite print of multiple negatives shows solarized (glowing) hands and a face that looks like a mask or an ancient statue. The actual shot was taken during a plaster-casting event where the face and hands were reproduced by pouring plaster onto the model.

 Protection Against Demons,   1987
Protection Against Demons, 1987

This is a single black and white negative (Kodak infrared) printed on Afga Portriga paper and hand colored. The technique used is called "light painting" with regular flash lights and off-camera flash. The infrared film provided the inner glow of the figure plus the grainy texture that added depth and a soft edges. The large front porch of Merry and Tom's place was the scene. There may be a casual reference to Anne Brigman's bubble photographs of the early 20th century.

 Dumbo,      1976
Dumbo, 1976

This is a single negative shot with Kodak Tri-X film, solarized and alternatively developed to achieve the streaks of white light. Shot at Disney World while Merry was living in Tampa, Florida

Karen Under a Spell,    1979
Karen Under a Spell, 1979

Black and white infrared film Multiple negatives were used in the print. Hand colored and stitched Here Merry creates one of her own myths with a friend and symbolism. The lone figure of Karen in the landscape cast a short shadow compared to the approaching figure from the lower left corner. The spell maker is accompanied by huge flowers and butterflies.