For the past four years I have been wandering around the woods of Southeastern Pennsylvania, painting faces of creatures and whole beings on trees. I have also been collecting and studying leaves and trees, and making paintings based on these outings. The tree paintings and the leaf images on paper arise from similar concepts and impulses.
My intention with the leaf paintings was to create more primal kinds of works that embody the spirit of the forests of the northeastern part of the country. I began using the leaf shapes of trees around me, and allowing these shapes to suggest personalities that flowed with these designs. The resulting images have exaggerated emotional states, which can move the viewer. They are both familiar emotional portraits, and strange new creations. My goal is to start with what is recognizable to humans, faces, and then transport the viewer to a more intense feeling of connectedness with nature.
While these are obviously constructed images, I wanted a wild, untamed feeling to exude from the works. They are not traditional paintings but more icons, or drawings. The traditional ideas of beauty are questioned, because I question making traditionally beautiful works in an age of such calamity. For me, these works express my connection with the natural world, but also pay homage to the works of the Iroquois mask makers, Jean Dubuffet, and Theodor Geisel. They are also part of my working process that includes many painted creatures on trees in the forests of Southeastern Pennsylvania.
As a nature enthusiast and environmentalist, I have created these works with materials that come more directly from nature and will not harm the planet. I would not want my art to be in conflict with my ideology. It is important to me that this work can be done without the reliance on advanced technology. While much entertainment and art is done with the computer and the virtual world, my position is to go the other way. I am not convinced that our way of life in the western world is sustainable because of the huge amounts of energy needed, the vast waste produced, and the environmental degradation that has and will result. Practically speaking, I am trying to be a low-tech/old-tech visual artist who does not use toxic materials that harm the earth.
For the past ten years I have been studying how to combine my environmentalism with my artistic practice. I have tried to be more sustainable by grinding my own pigments, using natural mediums and binders such as eggs, gum, wheat paste, shellac, and walnut oil and purchasing only powdered pigments from mineral and plant sources. I have researched the history of colors and paints and use many recipes that are hundreds of years old. I am convinced that the materials I am using pose no environmental hazard.
Richard Metz 2011