Bubblegum & Whiskey



Bubblegum & Whiskey

Bubblegum + Whiskey is a collaboration project started by artists Sarah E. Swist and Kevin R. Mercer. The duo works to incorporate various materials and processes to explore, “the function and aesthetic of objects often found in ‘hometowns’ across the country.”

The eclectic arrangement of sculptures, photographs, and paintings exhibit a pride and cheerfulness rooted in Bubblegum + Whiskey’s ingenuity and their sheer enjoyment for making. Craft-paint and pop colors mix with natural materials. Small town imagery, country settings, and everyday fabrics become transformed into a poetic homage to any DIYer who has braved the world of making things with whatever they have on hand.

Despite the small-town nostalgia that Bubblegum + Whiskey’s work exhibits, their ever-transforming materials and forms show a modern and rebellious tone that comes from making the mundane worth paying attention to.

“Manager’s Special,” for example, takes everyday grocery packaging and turns it into an intimate aesthetic experience and brings both humor—in making groceries art—and in the beauty in its objectness. “Heirloom” is a series of paintings that capture the whimsy and beauty of calico fabric squares, and brings a discarded craft material into a poetic experience of shape, color, and texture. Even their more abstract work like “Blob-scape” or “Good n Nice” bring an invitation to admire the strangeness of familiar materials and the emphasis of “small town” color palettes, used in new ways. 

The project is a work in progress and continues to elaborate and transform, as each piece collectively informs the overall project between Swist and Mercer. Follow the project and read more about their work at https://www.bubblegumandwhiskey.com/.

Kevin R. Mercer received his BFA from Western Illinois University and his MFA from Penn State University. At WIU, Mercer received the University Gallery Purchase Award and at PSU he was the recipient of the prestigious Gerald Davis Painting Prize. As a graduate student, he served as a design instructor and as a wood/metals shop technician. Mercer previously worked with the Carnegie Museum of Art and as Assistant Professor of Art & Gallery Manager at Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi. He has shown in cities such as Chicago, Cincinnati, New York, Brooklyn, Portland, and Pittsburgh. Currently, he lives and works in Nebraska where he serves as Instructor of Art & Gallery Director at Hastings College.

Sarah E. Swist received her BFA from Western Illinois University and her MFA from Penn State University. As a graduate student, she served as a drawing instructor for the School of Visual Arts and as a digital fabrication assistant in the School of Architecture. She was the recipient of the Fund for Excellence in Graduate Recruitment Award as well as a Creative Achievement Award. In recent years, she worked at the Carnegie Science Center and taught at Penn State Altoona. Swist has lived and shown work across the country. She is currently working and making art at Hastings College in Nebraska as Assistant Professor of Painting.