Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Career Paths: Sunni Mercer (2 of 2)

This is the second post profiling Sunni Mercer, a Bethany, Oklahoma-based assemblage artist, exhibition designer, and consultant.  Questions include my own and some from OVAC Facebook fans.  Feel free to add more for future profiles.

When asked, “Has anyone ever told you that you’re on the wrong path?” Mercer laughed in confirmation.  Many people even said she was in the wrong field.   Beginning her MFA, she struggled because her work fell between traditional and conceptual, making it hard to feel she fit.  Mercer said these outside questions served as motivation.  She said as you develop a better sense of who you are and what matters, these challenges are easier to answer and handle. 

Discussing mentors, Mercer mentioned professors and an instructor, Christopher Brown, who she met at the Oklahoma Arts Institute and Vermont Studio Center.  She said recent influential colleagues are more tangential—working in architecture or exhibition designers.  Through her museum consulting work, she said she’s been exposed and affected profoundly by the museum exhibition fabricators, who have made her reconsider her techniques, materials, and manufacturing. 

Mercer seems to find inspiration and learn from every colleague and project, which is a great strength.  Her upcoming project, “Lizinga Lemandla Ami: The Measure of My Strength,” will debut at IAO Gallery in October. Addressing the lives of women and children of Swaziland, Mercer’s sculptural and interpretive elements will be accompanied by photography, publication, and a tour.  The project will build awareness for a partnership to reduce the incidents of HIV/AIDS in Swaziland

An in-depth interview with Mercer about her career and apprenticeship program she created is available on

OVAC invites you to the Artist Survival Kit workshop, “Career Paths” on May 22, led by Mercer and me. The day will focus on artistic career stages, personal assessment, and practical job options.