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Artists' Stories

thank you, Annette Merlis

by Christine O’Malley
Curator of the Prime Time exhibit at the Islip Art Museum

I first met Annette Merlis in December of 2018. The Islip Arts Museum planned an exhibit honoring artists with work in our permanent collection who are still producing artwork well into their eighties and beyond. The exhibit explored why we create and to discover the personal muse that has kept these important artists developing and producing inspired artwork throughout their long and productive lives. When I contacted Annette to see if she would be interested she immediately responded, she would be honored. The honor was all mine.

We met for the first time in her home where she was still producing inspired abstract collages, having scaled down the size of her artwork over the decades form her larger painted canvasses. We spent a long afternoon and Annette shared her creative journey. Her creative muse started when she won her first art award in 4th grade to study art at summer camp in Omaha, Nebraska where she was raised. Not being encouraged to pursue any more art lessons she chose to study Journalism and earned a B.S. from Creighton University in Omaha.

In 1951 Annette and her husband Dr. Sidney Merlis moved to Bay Shore, where they raised their family. Trips into to New York City to visit galleries and museums recharged Annette’s creative muse. The energy, and vivid abstract artwork created by the artists of the New York School inspired Annette to ignite the artist within and she returned to creating and studied philosophy and art at the New School in Manhattan. She took lessons from many renowned artists, including Maurice Grosman, whose wife Tatyana was the founder of Universal Limited Art Editions, the world-famous print studio still located in West Islip, NY.

Annette Merlis created sublime mixed-media artwork that incorporated photography in order to explore the area between abstraction and realism. Decades of her work filled her home and studio. The time I spent in Annette’s creative space choosing artwork for the exhibit was an honor and a privilege. I was inspired not only by her prolific and beautiful artwork but her grace, intelligence and generosity. Annette encouraged me to rethink the possibilities within the soul of the creative individual and the power of aging. Annette was a masterful skilled artist; she will be missed.

I found this email from Annette; I will give her the last word:

It was a great pleasure to work with you. Thank you for the opportunity. The focus on older artists is a needed and gentle reminder to others that the creative process is not confined by age.
My best wishes,