Jason Mehl is sick with wanderlust.
Since graduating from Rockwall High School and then Stephen F. Austin State University, the self-taught sculptor has traveled extensively. He lived in Costa Rica and worked as a tour guide. He’s toured extensively in India, Indonesia and Vietnam.
And he lived for almost five years in South Korea, teaching at a university.
He returned to Texas from Portland, Ore. two years ago after the birth of his nephew here.
“I thought it was going to be a couple of months,” he says. “And here it is two years later.”
Mehl now works as a fulltime artist in a live/work studio near Lake Cliff Park, but he is an environmental scientist by education and trade. His current collection of work, called “Intuitive Geometry,” contains sculptures ranging from 6 inches to 14 feet tall. They are made of varying materials but all have a similar shape and feel.
Smaller ones are carved from clay and cast in bronze. One is a massive piece of glass. Mehl also works in ceramic and a traditional Korean art form, Hanji.
“What do they look like to you?” he asks of the sculptures.
Bones? Alien bones? Driftwood?
“Yeah, I’ll take that,” he says.
They look like something from nature that you can’t quite place.
Mehl is a rock climber and cave explorer — he also likes surfing and kayaking — with tales from all over Asia. He went to Korea originally to teach English but wound up taking a job teaching environmental science. That’s where he learned some traditional Korean sculpture techniques from a student who was a generational sculptor. He had known for years that art was his true passion when, in 2008, he decided to focus on sculpture.
Abstract sculpture appeals to him because it imposes upon space and forces the viewer to interact with it, he says.
He carried an 8-foot unfinished sculpture from Korea to Oregon, not sure what to do with it or whether it was finished. And then he brought it all the way to Dallas, where he decided it was finished, and it became the first piece in the “Intuitive Geometry” series.
“I spend a lot of time outdoors, trying to get as far off the beaten path as possible,” he says.
As a college student in Nacogdoches, he saved money for future travels by living in a tent instead of paying rent. He paid for that with his health, however, contracting Lyme disease, which has taken years to overcome.
That experience did not keep him indoors, though. He slept outside in a hammock in Costa Rica and took risky kayak trips in Vietnam.
Settling in Dallas for a while has allowed him to bring the focus of his work to a point. He’s got a show coming up in April at JM Gallery Downtown.
Catch him while you can.
“I start to feel like I have to go somewhere,” he says.