I enjoy working large. My intention is to impact a space, to impel the passerby, the loiterer, the traveler, to give more than a glance, to take a chance, to view a subject in a new light, make a connection, and be moved. A grand, imposing gesture is meant to give one pause.
I cut my teeth working for two mural studios in Los Angeles, while also tasked to create an occasional illustration. As a budding muralist, I was on teams assigned to paint scenes for private residences and commercial spaces including Las Vegas luxury hotels; panoramic vistas that would let visitors from all over the world experience a bit of ancient Roman history, tour the magic of Egypt, and imagine they are on a beach in the middle of a desert of dreams. This was technical artful work and proved to be invaluable in building my skills for representation in multiple styles with a magical sense of depth, light, and scale.
Ready to build my art career solo, I moved back to my hometown of San Francisco where, until recently, I’ve been a working artist since the early 1990s. My artwork is inspired by the abundant magic I see, touch and experience. Simply observing sunlight bathing a persimmon on a window ledge or spending hot days sketching farm workers in vast agricultural fields or studying the giant coastal rocks being drenched with waves of saltwater are only some of what stimulates me to make fresh paintings.
In San Francisco my art studio touched lower Clement Street, with its colorful and abundant Asian markets, Chinese herb shops, and Cambodian donut counters. Within a few city blocks the Geary corridor is lined with Russian bakeries and kosher delis marked by awnings in Cryllic script. To the west are the cliffs of Land’s End and the monumental rocks that guide ships and sailors through the Golden Gate. And there churns the great Pacific Ocean which is another world unto itself. A freeway stretches south to the valley of innovation, drawing talent from around the globe. Even farther south, are acres and acres of farmland, strawberries, cauliflower, artichokes, toiled and tended by migrants, stooped and reaching as they work the earth.
This theme and its elements have proven integral to my work as every relationship can tell a story. A worker’s veined and weathered hand is as allegorical as a colossal ocean rock. A still life of papaya, dragon fruit, grapes, a pear, is truly alive, sweet with pleasure, juice and seed. A subject meets the viewer’s eye with warmth, challenge, a deep knowing.
My hope is that the viewer will find that thread that connects her to something bigger than herself, that he will be moved through a feeling with no words: a burst of delight or surprise, a comforting warmth, a vehement call to action, friendship, truth. An observer might see something that no one else will see, and, in turn, see the world around them a little differently in every subsequent moment.
I sell artwork through galleries and online. Most of my work is by commission. Visualizing, composing, then boldly creating a custom work to transform a space is my sweet spot. I enjoy the collaborative dance between the artist and client.
In the last few years, I completed two murals for the lobby of a new state-of-the-art biotech building in Emeryville, California, and also designed and painted eight large WPA inspired paintings for The Matheson a new restaurant in Healdsburg, California.
For the first location I was charged to interpret the history of the city in one and the future in the other. Coexisting in a single space, the works tell their stories in vastly different styles. It was a unique and compelling challenge, and the result met the objective beautifully.
For The Matheson the paintings work as a mural and explore the subjects of migrant labor and agriculture. These themes are timely, continually relevant and something to which everyone of us is inextricably linked.
- Jay Mercado