Merrill Steiger was practically born with a paintbrush in hand. At age 7, she enrolled in a private art class, and by 14, she was attending the prestigious High School of Music and Art in New York City. She also earned her BFA in painting. And while many art students do not pursue art upon graduation, for Steiger an alternative career was never an option. For more than 40 years, she has worked as a professional artist—crafting, imagining, evolving, and envisioning magnificence, and leading her works to placement in prestigious galleries throughout the United States.
“You have to believe in your work. You have to have the hope and the feeling that people will appreciate it,” she says. “You don’t become an overnight success. I gave myself the chance to see where I was going.”
And it wasn’t just her work that was going places; Steiger herself is a well-versed traveler, constantly visiting Europe, Asia, and Australia. She began producing photo collages that were strongly influenced by different cultures; these collages in turn became inspiration for her paintings. However, her work is not just about travel. “I’ve gone through a lot of experiences, which very often show up in my work,” she says. “It happens very naturally.”
These experiences have led Steiger to some of her most revered and critically acclaimed acrylic on canvas paintings, with each series representing a different stage in her life. In the early 90s, it was a series of abstract nudes stemming from her love of bodybuilding, and next, a Kabbalah art meditation led to her Zen/Dot/Energy series. Yet it is her most recent series Unseen Universes and Worlds Collide that have unleashed an entirely new era of Steiger’s life journey.
In Unseen Universes, which she began in 2004, Steiger makes use of nature, biology, and astronomy through a juxtaposition of brightly colored micro and macroscopic images. Her current series, Worlds Collide, is a spiritual series using images that allude to the ongoing religion versus science debate. These pieces feature the same scientific images as Unseen Universes but also feature Mandalas, stained glass windows, and porticos, which are gateways into the spiritual world.
Steiger has opted not to participate in Miami’s upcoming Art Basel. While she has completed nine works in the Worlds Collide series, she says, “I think it’s important for an artist to show work at such an event like Art Basel, but the series is premature. I’d like to give viewers a sense of the series. By next year, I hope to have 15 to 20 pieces to show.” The series will instead be exhibited for the first time at Stamford Art Gallery at the University of Connecticut in January 2011.
And although Steiger has found professional and financial success from her paintings, she continues to stay grounded and true to her passion. “For me, it’s all about creating the art and the creative process. I find it exhilarating and I do it because I love what I do. That’s what drives me more than anything.”
Merrill Steiger’s work is in the permanent collection in the Jane Vorhees Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University and corporate and private collections.