Water is the essential element, a component of every form of life we know of. Over the past few years, celebrated Toledo-based artist Jesse Mireles has been creating more and more paintings inspired by water, or depicting subjects that water is vital to.
“I just found myself doing more compositions with water as a theme, and then I pulled back and started to look at the different works that I have going. And so many of them— if they [don’t have] water as a theme, water as a subject, it’s something that’s supported by water, whether it’s flora or fauna,” Mireles said.
Drawn to water
The result is “Water, An Homage,” a new exhibit of Mireles’ work located on the sixth floor of the Secor Building at 425 Jefferson Ave. On display through February 27, “Water” features a variety of paintings, prints and collages inspired directly or indirectly by the subject.
“It really was not a conscious choice, I just found myself drawn to doing more work with water as a theme, but I started looking toward other things, maybe not water as a subject, but so [many] of the other subjects are dependent on water,” Mireles said.
“I think that we are incredibly lucky to live where we live, where water is such a plentiful resource, with the Maumee River and its tributaries and Lake Erie. For sport and commerce and all sorts of things. In fact, the City of Toledo probably wouldn’t exist here without the confluence of waterways.”
Having visitors view his work in the Gallery on Six is almost like having them visit Mireles at home. He has been an artist in residence on the sixth floor of the Secor building for roughly ten years, and his studio is right down the hall from the exhibit space. He’s hosted shows there before, as well as a major exhibit entitled “Without Borders” on the first floor in 2013.
“I’ve had to mount shows in galleries and different locations, and it’s work. It’s a lot of work. Hauling stuff to different venues and all those sorts of things, and if you forget something, you have to go back to your studio. But here, the studio is just around the corner.”
Born in Mexico, Mireles was raised in Toledo, an experience that he feels allowed him to build a bridge between a variety of cultural influences in his own work. Viewers can see the impact of everything from Mexican muralists to American and German expressionists in the canvases that Mireles produces.
“I guess I’m fortunate to have lived during the time that I’ve lived, where I’ve lived, where I’ve been able to access all these different influences,” he said.
Exhibiting over troubled waters
Mireles has been building his reputation as an artist ever since he took an early retirement from his job as a graphic designer and brand developer for the Metroparks. He’s had his paintings shown in galleries as far off as Michigan, California and Massachusetts, though thanks to COVID it can be harder to be seen these days.
“Galleries all over the country, some are closed, maybe some forever. The gallery that reps me in Columbus, they were closed for a chunk of last year,” Mireles said.
There was no formal opening for “Water” in consideration of guests’ safety, though Mireles is hopeful about hosting a closing event if circumstances permit when the show ends in February. In the interim, he said he hopes visitors are able to make a strong emotional connection to the work on display.
“Hopefully, that connection will help them celebrate the vital role that water plays in our lives. It’s the things that we celebrate and to which we pay homage that we are willing to work to safeguard and preserve. In a way, it’s my contribution to the work of raising that awareness.”
“Water, An Homage” is on display on the 6th floor of the Secor Building, Monday-Saturday, 8am-6pm. Private viewings on Sunday are also available by request. Email Jesse@JesseMireles.net for further details. For more information on Mireles and his work, visit jessemireles.net.