Michael Mergen is an artist based in Farmville, VA. Born in 1978, Michael earned a BFA in photography from the Rochester Institute of Technology in 2000 and an MFA in photography at the Rhode Island School of Design in 2011. His work considers the political and civic nature of United States and its citizens through the medium of photography. His work has been featured in Harper’s, Mother Jones, and Once magazines, and featured on Time magazine’s LightBox and Slate. He has exhibited nationally and internationally and his work is held in several public and private collections, including the University of Maine Museum of Art, the Center for Photography at Woodstock, the Longwood Center for the Visual Arts, Urban Outfitters, Inc., and Center for Emerging Visual Artists. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Photography at Longwood University in Farmville, VA.
Inscribed Landscapes: 150 Years After the Civil War documents the landscape and history of the final days of the American Civil War. This noted route between Petersburg and Appomattox, Virginia, is commemorated by roadside markers by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. I moved to Farmville, VA, several years ago and this work is in a direct response to my local landscape. Both armies passed through here just two days before Lee surrendered and it is impossible not to see the impact the lasting impact the Civil War has had. Through direct, wax rubbings, the large-scale, mixed media photographic prints physically imbue the language of the historical markers that chronicle and memorialize the historic sites. This binary layering of past and present considers the history, location, and the contemporary landscape of rural Virginia.
After Selma to Mongomery:
After Selma-to-Montgomery is a series of five prints that document the landscape with direct rubbings of the historical signs that mark the historic Civil Rights route through Alabama.
Photographed on Election Day from 2008-2010, Vote investigates the spaces where the ideals of our political system meet the mundane realities of participatory democracy. The photographs consider the collision of private and public, consumer and citizen, and the incongruity between the functionality of the spaces and that of the voting booths.