It should seem only natural, perhaps, that Brooklyn-based artist Katie Merz, the daughter of architects, has made the built environment her canvas. Across the borough and beyond, Merz embellishes facades with murals composed of her signature “hieroglyphics”—a dense pattern of symbolic doodles and text in white oil stick. Her most recent project transforms the brick surfaces of the Brooklyn Bank building in the Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood with 2,500 square feet of intricate illustrations. After its life as a financial institution, the 1931 building served as a church. Today it is a private-events space and education center, teaching financial literacy to the community. Merz says her design sprang from a list of words she chose to represent both banking and the neighborhood. From there, the collection grew into a series of “signs and symbols” that underscore that connection, including cartoon-like images of bankers grasping bills and bags of money. “In my mind, my process is a form of mathematical deduction that reduces language back into symbols,” she says. The final step is to transfer these images onto the architecture that inspired them—allowing the public to engage with the art. On a frigid December afternoon, when record went to see the artist at work, curious passersby stopped to take in the scene and, some, to snap a selfie. “This is going to be more than just a mural,” she told the community before embarking on the project. She’s right: it is another layer of local history.
Snapshot: Brooklyn Bank Mural by Katie Merz
Brooklyn, New York
February 7, 2020