Miami-based Jose Mertz's whimsical works are taking over the 305.
Jose Mertz’s work blurs the lines between spirituality, reality, and fantasy, like his 2016 Metatron’s Blade.
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