Merrill Steiger is a mid-career artist, living and working in New York City, and has exhibited extensively in both solo and group exhibitions at museums, university galleries, art fairs, and galleries nationwide. Her work is also housed in a number of public, private, and permanent collections.
Early in her artistic career, Steiger developed an interest in “color fragmentation,” juxtaposing strong colors using hard-edged shapes. After three years throwing and glazing pots in the mid-1970s, Steiger began painting abstract architectural images that reflected a visit to Mexico. Connecting with the art of an ancient culture, and incorporating it into her own art, has become a recurring theme in Steiger’s work. She makes a practice of visiting spiritual Power Spots, which are geographic sites charged with positive energy. Her travels and studies brought her in contact with the art of Aboriginal Australians, and the indigenous traditions of Africa and Asia, including Cambodia, Vietnam, India, the Himalayas, and Japan, where she lived for three years in the early 1980s. All of these travels and life experiences have been a strong source of inspiration for her art.
After her return to New York, Steiger spent the next ten years producing collages, strongly influenced by origami, the art of paper folding, and by the restrained palette of Japan. The collages that followed featured the combining of vividly colored images. This act of making collages has since informed her artistic process, becoming an important part of creating the compositions for her paintings.
In the early 1990s, Steiger returned to painting with a series of abstracted nudes. This work was influenced by her personal interest in bodybuilding, and reflects the intimate bond between the artist’s life experiences and her art. Steiger has long felt the connection between her spiritual path, including meditation and exercise, and her work as an artist. In 1999, an extended art meditation directed by a teacher of the Kabbalah opened up a new dimension in her work. The intuitive transformation that she experienced lead directly to the Zen Dot Energy series (in 2000) that reflect India’s tantric traditions of circles and chakras. Steiger worked on the series, Unseen Universes (2004-8), which features organic forms, landscape imagery, and startling shifts of scale from the microscopic to the cosmic. The strongly hued paintings, rich with dots, lines, colors and moving shapes, suggest a journey through the inner space of one’s own consciousness. In 2009, Steiger began her series, Worlds Collide, which builds on the previous series but now incorporates anthropological references: ancient petroglyphs from the Southwest, Zen rock gardens, statues of the Buddha, mandalas, and other imagery. Worlds Collide concludes with a series within a series, Dreamland, using many of the elements from past and present series including references of Cappadocia, Turkey set against a pointillist sky. Steiger’s series GNH, Gross National Happiness, grew out of extensive traveling to countries that are solemn and/or spiritual in nature. Completed in 2015, the series reflects the peace and joy of spiritual self-exploration with saturated tones and sacred imagery. Steiger’s most recent series started in 2016, Sci-Fi, is a break from her normally saturated color palette, opting instead for a monochromatic exploration of light, shadow and space. Sci-Fi features large fantastical scapes that fuse together scenes of pioneer space travel and early black and white photography.