Mia Merlin: Overwhelming the World with Goodness

By Carol Otto Cole - carol.o.cole@gmail.com
Courtesy of LAA

In the art world, it’s not easy to climb from youthful and relative obscurity to a place where your dedication and struggle receive a hemispheric spotlight. Or, is it easy to have high-profile collectors, curators, admirers, and followers any artist would covet? Alas, as all Landings Art Association (LAA) members and art lovers are aware, it takes someone special with limitless imagination and humility to push the grind and claw the muck for the long-term rewards. Someone with compassion for the suffering of others and who is willing to combine her artistic and team-building skills to effect a touching memorial. Someone very much like the LAA’s guest speaker for September 17.

Mia (pronounced MY-uh) Merlin, an Atlanta native now living in Savannah, by day teaches Art Appreciation and Drawing and Painting at Georgia Southern University’s Armstrong Campus. With a 2003 MFA in Drawing and Painting from Georgia State University, Merlin along the way developed a fondness, ever evolving, for the intimate depiction of everyday life. Her mother and daughter are ever-present subjects in paintings, sometimes eating in sunlit domestic interiors or just hanging with friends. Girls, pictured above, is evocative of the intimist painter Pierre Bonnard with his intense use of color and ability to crystallize the most transient expressions. Check out Merlin’s website (miamerlin.com) and you’ll find a portfolio broken into unorthodox but well-tended categories, including Mom, Sea of Lily, Savannah, and Parade, to name just a few. These categories all are autobiographical and personal rather than the customary Still Life or Landscape divisions normally found. Merlin says the process of painting allows her to appreciate the world and to experience its complexity and mystery, as she intimately studies the hidden worlds within the familiar.

Her work has been viewed nationally and internationally in exhibitions, juried shows, and museums. In 2010, Merlin’s painting was selected by the US Art in Embassies program as part of an exhibit in the US Embassy in Vatican City, and more recently in Manama, Bahrain. She has had solo shows at Fay Gold Gallery, Emory University, and the University of West Georgia, with Birthday Party chosen among the top 10 art shows of the year by Atlanta’s art magazine Creative Loafing. Her paintings have been selected for permanent collection by the Fulton County Department of Arts and Culture Atlanta’s Library System.

Merlin is someone you would want for a neighbor, friend, or family member. In a world seemingly gone mad with sick, senseless tragedies, she was inspired after the Pulse nightclub shootings in Orlando to memorialize the slain victims. A quote from Desmond Tutu comes to mind, “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” Merlin reached out to artists through a single Facebook post, and the 49 Portraits project was born…a country-wide collaboration of artists coming together to paint each of the victims as a loving tribute for their family members, after an admirable exhibition in Orlando’s City Hall. Treat yourself to the website, 49portraits.com, and prepare to be profoundly touched.

Grab your comfortable gear and join us for a memorable evening with Merlin as we begin the LAA’s 33rd season. Anyone interested is welcome to join its membership for this fun evening ($3 guest fee) at the Skidaway Island Presbyterian Church on Tuesday, September 17 at 7 p.m. For information about LAA, visit landingsartassociation.com or email Membership Chair Daryl Nicholson (darylnicholson@me.com).