Meet the Artist: Merecedes Nelson

Artist and Sioux Falls native Merecedes Nelson sometimes can be M.I.A. for days at a time. But don’t worry, she’s probably in a dark room experimenting. The nature and music-inspired photographer owns DoeDeer Photography and is constantly inspired through road trips and seeing the beauty in things like the decaying. Intrigued? So was 605, so we chatted with Nelson to get to know her more, and to see what she does when she’s not documenting shows at Total Drag or prepping for her next gallery exhibit. 

The meaning behind my business name… actually came from the title of one of my favorite songs from a band that meant a lot to me for a large part of my life. The song is called DoeDeer, and the band is called Crystal Castles. If you go look it up to listen to it, just be warned that it’s a little abrasive. But I love it for the chaotic feelings it evokes. Plus, I also love deer and alliteration, so…

My love for photography started… in high school. Especially my senior year. I begged my parents to buy me a DSLR (a “professional” digital camera) for my birthday at the end of my junior year. The next year I took a photography class, and my teacher, Mrs. Winterscheidt, really encouraged me to pursue photography in college, and that’s what I did! I’m forever so glad that I did.

What draws me to nature is… definitely not the bugs. But even with my phobia of bees and wasps, I always feel drawn to nature. I believe nature is part of us, and the plants and animals are all so lovely and mysterious, and few places feel like a home to me as much as a thick forest of trees. I think I must have been a deer in a past life.

My relationship with Total Drag is… that I started going to see shows there when they opened, and after a while I asked if I could bring my camera and take pictures during shows. After a few years studying fine art photography in Vermillion, I had moved back to Sioux Falls and had begun to stagnate with my art, and had even gotten to the point where I was hardly taking any photos. It was like I just couldn’t create anything, and it made me so incredibly frustrated and sad. I had taken photos of shows for a bit in high school and enjoyed that, so it seemed like a good way to force myself to get back into creating things. Pretty soon I fell in love with capturing the energy of each show, the candid shots of the show-goers, and becoming great friends with the owners and other regulars. Now I consider Total Drag a second home.

One of my favorite moments during a live show was… that time I got to see Crystal Castles and every time Alice [Glass] went to crowdsurf, she stood right in front of and then over me.

You can usually find me at… Coffea [Roasterie] when I’m working, and Coffea when I’m not working. I spend most of my time there, walking all over downtown, maybe having a drink at Carpenter Bar, or having some quiet time in one of the many beautiful nature areas we have in and around Sioux Falls!


My inspiration for Strange Nature is… I was in a color film course in college and needed to shoot a roll of film so I could have something to process the next day during class. I had no idea what to photograph, and no real motivation to leave the house. I have always used toys and little knick knacks or pretty things to decorate my home with, and at the time had a toy elephant, a hedgehog, and a fawn each sitting in one of my plant’s pots in my window. I took a photo of them, and then thought about how they all looked like they were having so much fun, and wondered what they would do next. I ended up moving them all over my apartment and capturing photos of their little journey. Fast forward to a little over a year ago, I found one of those old prints and thought it would be worthwhile to revisit that idea, and it definitely has been!

Cycles of Decay came to be because… My roommate and I were in the introductory photo course, and we each had a 35mm film camera that was loaned to us by the incredible professor, John Banasiak, loaded up with black and white film. We went out with the intention of shooting at least one roll of film for class the next day. We drove around the back roads of Vermillion leading to Nebraska, but at one point, we both noticed something laying on the side of the road. She parked her car, and we curiously crept over to find a dead deer laying so peacefully next to the road. However, the deer had no head, and it was the strangest thing I had ever seen. It broke my heart, but also was so fascinating to me. Where did the head go? I kept returning to this deer for a month, documenting the decay, and found a morbid beauty in the way the flesh eventually becomes part of the earth once more, nourishing everything around it as it goes. After that, I stopped whenever I saw roadkill and documented the remains of the animals I found. I think I was trying to honor them in my own way, and this was the best way that I knew how.

Eventually as part of that, I began collecting and cleaning bones and using them in multimedia pieces and jewelry, while “Cycles of Decay” grew into something less of a study of death and more of me creating my own narrative for skulls and spirits and what happens once our life is gone.

What I love about the local art scene is… how much everyone encourages and helps each other out. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve had people reach out to me about getting my work displayed somewhere, or to participate in some kind of awesome project or sale. The passion is real and alive, and even if you’re just starting, there are more than enough people willing to help you grow as an artist.

What I want to see more of in the local art scene is… performance art, and just weird stuff happening a lot more in Sioux Falls.

One of my favorite places to grab a bite or drink is… M.B. Haskett. It’s always the first place on my mind when I want to grab a bite to eat. Everyone who works there is a sweetheart, and they all are so incredibly good. Plus, the food is consistently delicious every time.

Behind the bar of Coffea, I make a mean… Bee’s Knees latte. Or cappuccino. Or just a shot of beautiful espresso. I love, love, love creating anything there.

You can currently see my work at… the Louise location of Coffea. You can always see more of my work on my website and other social media platforms. I’m also working on releasing a photo book this year from the last several years I’ve spent documenting the local music scene, so definitely keep an eye out.

Something people might not know about me is… I don’t know how to ride a bike. But 2018 will be my year!

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