Jake Merten @lookatart at @Chicagotruborn and the Damen Silos

By - Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

L.A. artist Jake Merten, who is now living in Chicago, recently had a solo show at the Chicago Truborn Gallery, featuring his combination of people portraits and a collection of anime characters. Two spaces have been painted for this particular show. A mural space just outside of the gallery and the main wall directly inside the gallery. Chicago Truborn specializes in showing local artists from Chicago and surrounding areas. 

These images are from the painting of these two spaces within the gallery and also of a huge silo off of Damen and the expressway. Jake has three murals that have been painted over the last couple of years. It’s a quiet space, illegal of course but covered in a collection of Chicago’s artists. 

I asked Jake some questions about the scene and where he stands as an artist. 

How does technology influence or does technology influence your decisions on your current works/how you paint?

The rapid output and response we’ve become accustomed to when using technology, specifically social media, definitely influences my work, and I think many artists’ in general. The fact that a picture is all you need to gain some sort of instant recognition these days in the street art world takes the already temporal nature of street art and expedites it so that it really doesn’t matter if your piece lasts a few hours.  As long as you have a picture of the piece you can still share your work. As well, sometimes knowing that your work will likely be shared across social media can influence the image or message of the piece.

How much does personality determine the success of an artist?

I’ve learned that fans want a personality to follow along with the work, someone to live vicariously through, or to be inspired and motivated by. Yes, sometimes the work speaks for itself, and it may not matter what the artist is actually like in person. However, the opposite could be true as well. Sometimes the art is mediocre but the personality of the artist behind it is powerful and therefor successful, or the artwork is fantastic but the personality sucks. As well, with the integrated use of social media within the art world and the growing popularity of the street art subculture, a type of personality is created whether the artist intends to or not, and this can definitely factor into their appeal to others and success rate.

Have you ever painted with your mentor, who is it and tell me about that experience.

My mentor when I started painting was Annie Preece. Her and I were getting into the LA street art scene around the same time, and I was also between housing situations, so for a long time she was letting me crash on her couch. She not only took me in, but, as she was a bit more seasoned than I in the art game, she mentored and inspired me. When I was living with her we would often collaborate on murals together, paint side by side on walls, participate in a group shows and help each other complete our individual walls as well.

Does your mom know what you do?

Yeah, my ma digs it.

If you could turn back time. Which of your murals would you like to destroy?

I’m one of those painters that would paint over every single one of my old pieces if I had the time. I do appreciate being able to see my progress, but as I’ve grown I continue to want to improve. I’m rarely satisfied with my work, and often want to change it. But, that’s one aspect I love about publicly displaying my work; as soon as it’s out there it no longer belongs to you, it’s in the streets, and it’s there for you and everyone else to reflect on until it’s painted over or destroyed.

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