I work 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 painting for two mural studios in Los Angeles. As a budding muralist, working for Robert Walker Studios, I was on teams assigned to paint scenes for 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 work, really, and proved to be invaluable in building my skills for realism, multiple styles, depth, light, and scale.
Ready to build my art career solo, I moved back to my hometown of San Francisco, where I have been a hardworking artist for twenty-six years. Most of my artwork is inspired by the world around me, the things I see and touch and experience as a member and observer of the diverse, innovative, beautiful and frighteningly fast-moving Bay Area culture.
My studio touches lower Clement Street, with its colorful and abundant Asian markets, Chinese herb shops, and Cambodian donut counters. Within a few city blocks is the Geary corridor, 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, 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 is my world and its elements have proven integral to my work, 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 out of my storefront studio. Most of my work, however, is by commission. Visualizing, composing, then boldly creating a custom work to transform a space is my sweet spot. I value the collaborative dance among the artist, the client and the ensuing audience.
Last year, I completed two murals for the lobby of a new state-of-the-art biotech building in Emeryville, California. 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.
This year I am creating a series of paintings on the subject migrant labor in agriculture. It's a theme that is always timely, very relevant and something to which everyone of us is inextricably linked.
- Jay Mercado