Murjoni Merriweather: The Walk, the new exhibition on display from October 28 to December 3 at Creative Alliance, provides space for a transformative and engaging visit with both the artwork and with the artist’s practice. There is an abundance of visual information: sculptures, process drawings, video, books, as well as decorative objects like candles, plants, drapes and lights. The journey of this exhibition, with these artworks — and, by extension, with the artist — is never cold or solemn. The Walk is full and grounding.
Baltimore native Murjoni Merriweather is a sculptor who creates figurative busts of Black people. They are adorned in jewelry, dusted with glitter, and are on display in the full and expansive range of Black life — one figure’s full beard is accompanied by a lush afro; others have locs piled high and wrapped in fabric. Merriweather was formerly a resident at Creative Alliance (2019-2022), and the show features works pulled from that period, as well as her 2022 Alma Lewis Artist Residency, a three-month long residency in Pennsylvania where artists receive private studios.
In the center of the gallery is “Cycle Circle,” composed of eight pedestals representing the artist’s process of completing her sculptures, starting with a mound of unshaped clay and ending in a fully embodied decorative bust. As a visitor physically navigates the space, like clockwork, the mound is molded by Merriweather’s invisible hands; each stage adds a layer of completion, from clay, to paint, to final details. This portion of the exhibition is also accompanied by a time-lapse process video.
“K A I Z E N” is a bust of a female figure covered in matte onyx paint. “K A I Z E N’”s full lips, large gold hoop earrings,and angular face is framed by thick strands of loc’d hair, tied in a loose knot at the top of her head. “K A I Z E N” is displayed on a pedestal in front of “T O R A (sketch)”, a framed drawing made in her studio, that would eventually become a sketch on display in this gallery. Other sketches are on display throughout the space, marked with the artist’s fingerprints, pigment and smudges, with notes about details she’d like to include on subsequent sculptures.
The exhibition ends in an opportunity to interact with the artist’s work and with ourselves. At a table there are notecards and pens, and Merriweather invites the viewer to answer the question “HOW DO YOU TRULY FEEL?”, and to “ADD IT TO THE WALL” where various notecards are pinned and layered. The wall also features a web of references from the artist’s oeuvre, source images, and bags of hair, sourced from local beauty supply stores, which Merriweather styles her figures with.
This moment in the show forced me into a stillness that I have not recently been able to achieve; it was a contemplative space that I deeply appreciated. In this corner of the exhibition, a bookshelf holds books that evoke creative contemplation, including bell hooks’ “All About Love” as well as “Alberto Giacometti: Toward The Ultimate Figure” (whose cover references Merriweather’s process installation a few steps away). And at various points in the gallery there are plants, breathing life into the space and adding another layer of warmth and comfort.
Murjoni Merriweather: The Walk is currently on view in the Main Gallery at Creative Alliance, 3134 Eastern Avenue, through December 3. It is also viewable online at creativealliance-onview.org/murjoni-merriweather-the-walk.