How does one go about describing Merkley??? There is no typo here, folks – he casually affixes three question marks to his name – just as he uses character monikers to describe his photographic stories. Examples? GGG, the title of last year’s Merkley??? exhibit, meaning “Girls, Gays + Groceries” and 111, for his book, released at 111 Minna on 11-11 (date of release) at 11:11 (time of release) with a total of 111 tantalizing photographs of nude ladies. Wrap your tongue around that one + remember to eat your canned goods!
A man of MANY words, Merkley??? lives by such mantras:
“Minimalism is for quitters”
“I may not be God but at least I am real”
“Most of all, don’t forget…FUCK YOU”
Yes, he said it and we love it! Merkley??? cruises the F>A>S>T lane the way we sometimes wish we could – as artist/photographer extraordinaire + fashion rockstar (a man of eclectic taste, he ALWAYS sports a vintage suit, sunglasses + stark white tennis shoes circa Howard Hughes). Merkley??? also has an affinity for the birthday suit… seen in most of his photographs…a nd his muses have NO problem stripping down for him. I had a chance to rap with the elusive Merkley??? about life, photography, sex + his creative juices. Check out what what he had to say (WARNING: he might make you laugh)
LF: What makes you tick / what makes you click?
M???: My heart, which is actually a super quesadilla castillito with carne asada and extra cilantro, I’m a medical miracle. True.
LF: Your photos are highly creative. What is some of your inspiration, particularly your prop decisions?
M???: Remember when you were a kid and you’d sit around making up lies and stories all day long with your friends? Yeah I sorta never grew out of that.
LF: Tell us a little about your process…
M???: It usually happens that I am dicking around on he Internet Facebook chatting tons of hot babes and I will mention a new series and the hot babe will say she is calling the cops on me and then I talk her out of it. I grew up mormon and went on a mission to brazil. I learned how to talk people into all sorts of ridiculous shit. I obviously still lie a lot.
but seriously, the process is all about having fun, making retarded things come to life. Pretending inanimate objects have personalities, etc. It scares me to think of looney bins because half the time I think the people in there are just people like me who never figured out how to get away with acting like a 7 year old. Knock on wood.
M???: Well, I started out painting and sorta developed a color palette that I liked, so when I moved to photo based stuff I just dragged that monkey along. I have a very wide range of things I enjoy in the works of others but I really enjoy it when an artist will stick to an aesthetic and see it through. I’m perfectly happy Michael Jackson never made a country album.
I like it when I recognize things immediately. The recognition that something belongs to a larger body gives a context that I enjoy and respect.
LF: There’s lots of skin/nudes in your work. Give us a tip on getting people to undress:
M???: Make them look like shiny plastic and they will line up around the block. A friend once said to me: Vanity is a drug, and you are a dealer. I think she nailed it.
If you wanna show the “reality” of blemishes and stretch marks, good luck with that. We have amateur porn for that anyway right? Or perhaps a mirror. I suppose a mirror store is sorta like an art gallery. CHECK OUT THEM PORES!
M???: I’m not trying to make boners, I’m making snacks. The nudity in my art is more tongue in cheek, it’s a no-brainer why art and nudity have been inseparable since the first cave drawing. We like to imagine inhibitions, we like to have a little surprise and while a naked girl on a sofa with a plate of floating spaghetti is certainly no revolution it’s also not staring at the back of your stupid co-workers ugly head.
LF: Where do you find your muses?
M???: I like to enjoy drinks with friends and I like people that like my friends so that group is ever evolving. People are interesting if you know how to see them. I find them everywhere and they find me back, its surprising how many people are good at acting like they are 7 years old.
LF: Tell us a little about your 111 book and the meaning behind the title.
M???: I like arbitrary rules and numbers because they are challenging. I knew i would be releasing the book and having the show at 111 minna and it’s always been a very aesthetically pleasing number. Also, there are a few math tricks involved that I divulge on the first page of the book. I like to massage nonsense until it starts to look like it has meaning. Remember, I was raised by religion.
LF: You live in San Francisco. How does the SF vibe affect your work, if at all? Does the city inspire you in any way?
M???: I am so in love with San Francisco I can’t believe it. Like not the brotherly kind of love, the kind where you look across the bar and go WOW I HAVE TO MAKE OUT WITH THAT CITY.
People decide to live in SF, not very many people end up here on accident.
LF: Is your nightlife/photo work intertwined?
M???: Since that is where I meet most of my co-conspirators I’d have to say absolutely. By the embarrassment I feel reading the ideas I text to myself while drunk I’d have to say ABSOLUTELY NOT.
LF: When did you first pick up a camera? Tell us about that and how you evolved.
M???: I always took photos as a kid. My dad always had a Canon AE1 on hand loaded with film and he wasn’t stingy about me using it all up. I was really in to composing pictures artistically.
But really what I do now isn’t much related to that, when digital cameras and laptops became viable in around 2000 and I could bypass the lab dickheads, stay in bed all day and use Photoshop to manipulate to my hearts desire, I suddenly realized that it was much less messy than painting. I always knew where the paint brush was, the tools were always organized etc.. and making a picture out of photos of friends is a less lonely endeavor.
High fives work better with a buddy and oil painting in bed ain’t as awesome as it sounds.
LF: You have a sense of humor/sarcastic/fuck you type of attitude in your work (and also on your blog). Talk more about this side of your personality:
M???: My dad always enjoyed and encouraged a sort of anti-establishment ethic so maybe i got it from there. I recently connected with my biological daughter that was conceived the VERY FIRST TIME I ever had sex. She was adopted at birth to a lovely family but it’s absolutely eery how much we have in common, like instant besties. I am starting to believe that fuckyouism is a genetic trait.
Something about sarcasm seems to be completely unique to humans and it’s a lovely thing to see in someone’s eyes. It’s like you can see a fantastic party through the window of an ordinary house. Something is going on in there.
LF: Where would you choose to do a photo shoot if it could be anywhere in the world?
M???: honestly, I have never met a location I didn’t like, well, maybe thats not true. Boring recent remodels with new furniture suck the life out of everything, but really its the challenge of pulling a story out of thin air that I find really fun. So really, anywhere will do. In fact, the minute I acknowledge that I don’t like something, it becomes a challenge to make it work. It feels so lazy and unimaginative to have too many hard and fast preferences.
Now i sort of wanna do a whole series on recent boring remodels. Is that masochism?
LF: What do you want to be when you grow up, or would you already consider yourself grown up?
M???: While I act like a 7 year old I have no Michael Jackson syndrome. I’m perfectly fine leaving the zoo at the zoo. I’m actually quite happy and surprised about getting older, it’s like all the things you learn along the way teach you how to have more fun and how to shake the company of the nostalgic ones who wanna eat the same cake they ate when they were 20 over and over and over. GAH! RUN FROM THE NOSTALGICS!
LF: How do you LIVE FAST?
M???: I don’t know, I take lots of naps. I could hang with sloths, tortoises and koalas.
LF: Fashion talk: You have quite a unique style. How would you classify your style? What is your favorite trend?
M???: I’d call my style stubborn and meticulous. A lazy man’s maximalism. I have left lots of room for improvement which is simultaneously daunting and exciting.
I’m not so fixated on trend as I am the sparks that create them. I like the energy certain people put into the world by switching things up, twisting things into new shapes and completely ignoring everything and going it solo. I am energized by those who look for a new direction. I love a surprise.
Trends are great though because while everyone is looking east, there is all this abandoned loot in the west. Snatch that shit up!
LF: Art talk: what inspires you? Favorite artist or work?
M???: Here is the list of inspiration from my Flickr profile: Devo, Dr. Seuss, Vargas, Norman Rockwell, Wes Anderson, Jim Henson, Apple Computers, Adobe, Pixar, Gary Larson and the one panel cartoon format. Glamour Shots (you know from the mall). The entire lowrider aesthetic. Post Mormon Repression Correction.
But really it’s sorta hard to even narrow it down like that because, and excuse me for sounding like an idiot hippie for a second, but is a giraffe inspired by tall trees? Is a pelican inspired by wiggly throated retirees? I have always felt the need to make stuff and ultimately I just feel like I am obeying my instincts. It doesn’t feel like I had much choice. Had I tried to work in an office for any longer than I did, it likely would have ended up in live helicopter coverage on CNN.
When I look at the list of people above it looks more like a list of other people who were born that way and also figurred out how to get away with it.
LF: Sex talk: What gets you off? Literally or figuratively.
M???: HOW DARE YOU! slap.
LF: Travel talk: Favorite destination or travel stories you want to share?
M???: I’m not much of a traveler RE: I WANT TO MAKE OUT WITH SAN FRANCISCO!