Merrill retrospective at Mad Rose Gallery

September 6, 2023

MILLERTON —  On a late-summer day that was warm but not oppressive, the light was ideal for the glowing, life-positive canvases arrayed around the new Mad Rose Gallery on Friday, Sept. 1, for a retrospective of selected works by the late Susan Merrill.

Visitors joined friends and family members to appreciate the work of a keen-eyed animal lover and shared their stories celebrating a life well lived.

Merrill grew up in a farm town in Maryland and documented that life in both writing and illustration. She was especially taken by Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, where she spent much time observing animals and their ways, which be came the subjects of a good portion of the current acrylic-on-canvas works on view. Working from photographs, she was clearly a fan of jewel-toned colors capturing light, essential strokes often in an Impressionist style, and a cinematic style of cropping.

Her own curiosity about art, living creatures and life seem to have infused everything she did. “She painted all the time,” explained her husband, Carl Sprague, himself a noted cinema set designer and concept artist. She was also the author of several books, a much-loved elementary art teacher for a dozen years, and the mother of three.

Her subjects were not only the animals, insects and other subjects shown in various exhibits in the Berkshires over the years, but also a haunting series of floating figures, a departure from the loose, light-seeking style. Those were hung in her home’s stairwell, a metaphoric map by a woman who had fought difficult health battles and found a certain peace about what came next.

Merrill’s adult son Ruslan Sprague, adopted from Russia at age 3 and a dancer with the Albany-Berkshire Ballet since early childhood, spoke of her “joie de vivre” and the extraordinary culture in the home, and of how touching it was to curate her many hundreds of works after her passing.

The Susan Merrill retrospective can be seen at Mad Rose Gallery at the corner of routes 22 and 44, until Sunday, Sept. 17.

Millerton News Article