Merrill, who oversaw the gallery from 1997 to 2009, was instrumental in expanding the annual Ink & Clay competition and show to include hundreds of entries from the best ceramic and print artists in the Western United States.
Other notable shows he curated include “Sensate” and “Represent” in 2001.
“The art department is mourning the passing of a true friend and colleague,” says Babette Mayor, professor and chair of the art department. “Patrick Merrill was a curator and exhibiting artist who knew the value and importance of art in our society.
“As director of the W. Keith and Janet Kellogg University Art Gallery, he had a tremendous impact on the university and surrounding communities. He helped to propel annual art exhibitions like Ink & Clay and DPI into the national and international limelight. He featured local artists as well as those from around the world and highlighted topics such as war, identity and race. He was a great supporter and contributor to our department and we will work to keep his legacy alive.”
Colleagues say he was known for his kindness and concern for people, as well as his dedication to the university’s art program.
“Patrick was an extraordinary person, unique in his openness and his ability to communicate his perceptions through his artwork,” says Noel Vernon, assistant to College of Environmental Design Dean Michael Woo. “It is his own humanity, honesty and quest for social and environmental understanding and justice that we see transformed and reflected in his art.”
Merrill was regarded as one of the great print makers and mixed-media artists in Southern California. After serving in Vietnam, he returned to the Los Angeles area and earned his bachelor’s of fine arts from Cal State Long Beach and his master’s of fine arts from Cal State Fullerton.
Since the 1970s, his work often addressed issues of gender, race, class, politics, current events and addiction and has been displayed in museums in China, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and throughout the United States.
His works will be featured in an upcoming show, “Patrick Merrill: Revelation,” at Cal State Fullerton’s Begovich Gallery from Oct. 30 to Dec. 9. In addition, a book of Merrill’s artwork with essays by art historians is under preparation.
A memorial service has been planned for Oct. 30, the evening of his exhibit opening. More details will be announced on PolyCentric when they become available.
The Diamond Bar resident is survived by his wife, Debra Winters.