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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Art to the Editor

Last spring, Ben Merris graduated from UMass Boston. Student, artist, and friend to just about everybody, Merris was a part of the UMass community that will be greatly missed. His presence on the UMB campus, either in person or through his artwork, was always, and is always, a delightful experience.

If you’ve never seen a Ben Merris painting, I suggest you make a visit to the Harbor Gallery on the first floor of McCormack, where the artist currently has several pieces up in the Damn the Torpedoes show.

One piece in particular is quite remarkable. At first, it doesn’t seem like much, but after closer examination Overestimating Despite Doubt (at right) begins to reveal more than funky shapes atop a field of brown–which it may seem to be in passing.

The viscid quality of this painting makes the viewer feel as if they were a geologist at some sacred site, where history was being unearthed layer by layer. In fact, you can even see a subtle indication of some early thought-form on the left side of the canvas; an instinctive sketch that was later covered up by the artist with the thick, brown, paste-like paint that dominates the whole.

This skeletal form, although buried and seemingly forgotten, adds to the richness and depth of the work and at the same time suggests the process behind the alchemy of painting. Other areas emit bright specks of color through scratch-like marks in the mass of brown. More sophisticated forms were developed in the upper left and right corners, and along the bottom.

Maybe Overestimating’s impact is due to its location, hanging in the gallery window, where even if you don’t actually go into the Harbor Gallery you still see it, if only peripherally, when passing McCormack.

For whatever reason, this painting weighed on my subconscious for some time. It wasn’t until I took the time to investigate it up-close that I began to consider its story.