Michael Mercil lives in Columbus, Ohio, where he is Professor in the Department of Art at The Ohio State University. He received an MFA from the University of Chicago in 1988, and a BFA from the Minneapolis College of Art & Design in 1978.
Mercil’s art explores the realms of “the near, the low, the common” in works somewhere close to—if not always within—the categories of sculpture, drawing, painting, landscape architecture, film, performance, and farming. His work has been included in solo and group exhibitions organized by museums and art centers throughout the United States.
In 2005, with Ann Hamilton, Mercil began The Living Culture Initiative, a project integrating their art practices within the core research framework of OSU—a public land-grant college dedicated to teaching the “mechanical, agricultural and liberal arts.” In 2006, Mercil planted The Beanfield as an agri/cultural experiment with the Wexner Center for the Arts, and the Social Responsibility Initiative in the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Because good farmers rotate crops, in 2008, Mercil converted The Beanfield into The Virtual Pasture (2008–2011) where he has proposed installing a green energy park and carbon storage bank called, Wind|Farm.
Mercil’s documentary Covenant: a film about farm animals (and us), premiered at the Wexner Center for the Arts in 2013, and has screened at festivals across the United States and abroad. His recent projects include Thoreau’s Desk (2014—15) a music composition for percussion trio commissioned by the deCordova Sculpture Garden and Museum, Lincoln, Massachusetts. In 2016, Mercil opened the Art Market™ as an ongoing studio-based project in Columbus, Ohio.
Awards and recognitions Mercil has received include a Battelle Engineering, Technology and Human Affairs Endowment Award (2016, 2009); Greater Columbus Arts Council Media Artist Fellowship (2012); Wexner Center for the Arts Film/Video Artist Residency (2011—12); Harpo Foundation Visual Artist Award (2010); Ohio Arts Council Individual Artist Fellowship (2009, 2005); ASLA Design Honor Award (2009, 2003); Environmental Design Research Association Place Design Award (2002); Progressive Architecture Citation Award (1997); McKnight Foundation Visual Arts Fellowship (1990); National Endowment for the Arts Artist Design Fellowship (1989); and a Jerome Foundation Visual Arts Fellowship (1986).
Mercil’s writings have appeared in Anthropocene Magazine, Edible Columbus, PLACES magazine, Public Art Review, and TriQuarterly. His essay, co-authored with Amanda Gluibizzi, on Lucy Lippard’s “Dematerialization of the Art Object …” is included as a chapter in the Cambridge History of Postmodern Literature published in 2016.