Mind the art: Mi­ami artist Jose Mertz’s eye-catch­ing works are rooted in his daily med­i­ta­tion prac­tice.


Ocean Drive - - Contents - BY KATIE JACK­SON

Water dragons. Lucky tigers. Cen­taurs. These are just a few of the mythical crea­tures—and in­tri­cately de­tailed works by Magic City-based artist Jose Mertz—you’ll come across strolling through the col­or­ful streets of Wyn­wood. His cre­ations (every­thing from larger-than-life mu­rals and in­stal­la­tions to graphic T-shirts and stick­ers) both cap­ti­vate and in­spire view­ers as they blur the lines be­tween fan­tasy, re­al­ity, and spirituality.

Like many artists be­fore him, Mertz’s de­sire to cre­ate started in early child­hood. “I was 5 years old when I knew I re­ally liked draw­ing and wanted to keep do­ing it,” he says. As he grew older, he ex­panded his ex­plo­ration into mu­sic, pa­pier-mâché, col­lage, and cut­ting and past­ing. “I even put choco­late syrup on a sketch­book.” Even­tu­ally, the novice cre­ator went from ex­per­i­ment­ing with melted con­fec­tions to hon­ing his craft at pres­ti­gious in­sti­tu­tions, in­clud­ing Mi­ami’s New World School of the Arts for high school, be­fore mov­ing to Bal­ti­more to study at the Mary­land In­sti­tute Col­lege of Art. “I liked the fact that MICA ro­man­ti­cized the art of paint­ing,” he says.

But it was dur­ing a se­mes­ter study­ing abroad in New York City that Mertz dis­cov­ered Zen Bud­dhism, a prac­tice he says has pro­foundly im­pacted him both per­son­ally and

pro­fes­sion­ally. “I met Stan Kholer, a Zen teacher. He in­spired me to come back to New York after grad­u­a­tion and study the in­ter­nal arts.” Mertz re­turned to the Big Ap­ple to learn “the spir­i­tual side of things” and in­evitably dis­cov­ered med­i­ta­tion, a prac­tice he now lives and breathes, and works in, too. “When I paint and draw I’m in a med­i­ta­tive state, but I’m still us­ing brain power,” he ex­plains. “The idea is to stop think­ing. Not even a thought of a thought.”

Nowa­days, Mertz does his no-think­ing yet thought­ful paint­ing in Mi­ami, where his thriv­ing hand and mind have landed him col­lab­o­ra­tions with ma­jor ap­parel brands like Adi­das, Vic­to­ria’s Secret, and Old Navy. He’s also par­tic­i­pated in non­profit projects with Re-imag­in­ing the Arts in Wyn­wood (RAW) and opened a new gallery dubbed Stu­dio In­vcbl in the lat­est ex­ten­sion of the Arts District, Al­la­p­at­tah. “They call [the area] the West of Wyn­wood,” he says.

Though well es­tab­lished and in de­mand, Mertz at­tributes much of his suc­cess to mas­ter­ing the art of med­i­ta­tion and re­main­ing fo­cused on his orig­i­nal goal: to pur­sue his pas­sion and in­spire and con­nect with oth­ers along the way. “If I can make some­body feel some­thing, any­thing, just for a sec­ond, I’ve done my job.” @jose­mertz

Jose Mertz’s work blurs the lines be­tween spirituality, re­al­ity, and fan­tasy, like his 2016 Me­ta­tron’s Blade.

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