My work dilates a slice of time, providing an aperture through which to view...

instagram: @hillbilly_frankenstein

Collaborative project between Sarah and Kevin: BubbleGumAndWhiskey // // instagram: @bubblegumandwhiskey


Kevin Mercer earned a BFA degree from Western Illinois University, then an MFA degree from The Pennsylvania State University. He is currently an Instructor of Art and the Gallery Director at Hastings College in Hastings, NE. Kevin previously served Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi as a Professional Assistant Professor and the University Galleries Manager. He also worked as the Construction and Facilities Coordinator at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, PA. Mercer is one half of the collaborative duo Bubblegum & Whiskey with artist Sarah Swist.

My work dilates a slice of time, providing an aperture through which to view the wonder, possibility, and nostalgia of childhood. A veneer of retro science fiction compliments the inclusion of digital fabrication and physical computing. I embrace folk and contemporary craft aesthetics in order to construct my own particular flavor of handiwork. The pieces become physical manifestations of memories, rumors, and tall tales composed of found objects, ready-mades, hand-wrought components, electronics, and digital media. These high and low extremes of craftsmanship allow me to create pieces which feel familiar, yet otherworldly, existing both then and now. Longing is leveraged against reality.

What motivates you to create? Do you have any "rituals" you do when creating?
As I create, I seek motivation through play. I build things, deconstruct and rearrange them, and treat them like toys. A recent piece, Looks Small, Feels Big, illustrates this fairly well. Each small plaster cast feels like a single component from a construction or building block set. Their modularity directly results from my continual exploration of each form; as I play, I become more familiar with each plane and angle, developing spatial relationships among the plaster casts.

Who or what are your artistic influences and how have they impacted you or your work?
For the last several years, mid-century science fiction has become very important to the conceptual development of my work. One of my favorite novels, Occam’s Razor, by David Duncan, captures the simultaneous hope and anxiety of the Cold War era technology and telecommunications. I like to think that my work utilizes science, fiction, and pseudoscience to a similar end; I seek to build work that feels hopeful, yet anxious.

What would you like to see more of in the art world? How does art impact the community - what would you like to see more of?
I would love to see more artists having fun as they make work. While I value sweat equity and an investment of time, I believe that the communicative effectiveness of the artwork is amplified when an artist genuinely enjoys their process. Of course, this is not to say that the work cannot engage very important and timely issues in a serious and effective manner. I suppose, for me, it’s about taking the work seriously, not myself.

How does your choice of material impact your work?
Found objects, handmade wooden parts, electronics, and digital imagery coalesce into interactive, post-disciplinary installations. This blend allows me to create unique and unforeseen relationships within the work which, until developed, are mysteries even to me. Chance encounters with material and media have fostered a flexibility within myself and my practice that has maintained a level of fun and surprise; this keeps me interested in the process.