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Painted Tree Creatures

August 2016

Contemporary Art International

Painted Tree Creatures-CAI is an installation of paintings of animals and birds in the woods at CAI, that have mythic and legendary qualities. The paintings are all done with eggs and natural non-toxic pigments, and the works will slowly decay over the next 2-3 years.

The Bear, Beaver, and Raven are important figures in both Native American culture, as clans and power figures in the tribes that lived in the area of Acton hundreds of years ago, in children’s stories from some of Acton’s European ancestors, and in the current ecology of the Eastern United States.

The Porcupine figure is more whimsical, and relates to a Wampanoag Native American legend as the Pukwudgie, a trickster character. It was also inspired by the stories of a friend of mine, who lives near Acton, who has had her vegetable garden ransacked by Porcupines.

The Ancient Greek figure of Artemis is the goddess of wild animals. Ancient Greece certainly was a patriarchal culture, but Artemis and Athena stand out as smart, powerful female warrior figures. Many modern cultural heroes may be based on them.

The Frog Prince is a common fairy tale, but I choose to look at it as a class reversal, where the lowest creature that lives in the mud, becomes the prince of the land.

The presence of images of the flying birds native to the area is to create a magical, lively, colorful space. Featured are the Cardinal, the Robin, the Red tailed Hawk, the Canadian goose, the Pileated Woodpecker, and the Baltimore Oriole. These are the birds we have come to know and they, in a way, can symbolize the wooded areas of the Northeastern United States.

The Greenman is an older Pagan image that is found in many cathedrals in the United Kingdom and still celebrated in some towns there. I choose to view it as a contemporary allegory of the ecological man, who understands that we coexist as part of nature, rather then separate from and dominating it. In this sense, it is a plea for ecological balance before we destroy our planet.

Richard Metz 8/16

 

 

Painted tree spirits              Richard Metz   2010

For the past three years I have been wandering through the woods of southeastern Montgomery County, painting strange faces and figures on groups of trees in secluded areas. My latest work are in Abington, PA., and in Port Angeles , Washington. I received a grants to be part of their Sculpture Parks. These outdoor paintings are kind of neo-primitive, and belong in a nature setting, not a gallery. They are meant to hover in between the genres of fine art, children’s illustration, and a kind of art brut graffiti.

While I have in the past been influenced by tribal works and years of portrait painting, the faces and creatures that I have created, (see images), are inspired by the areas they inhabit. They are meant to be wondrous, spiritual, humorous, playful, and aesthetically enjoyable art that works within and depends upon the context of a wooded area. The characters are created as nature spirits. In the tradition of Native American masks and sculptures, these works are my own representations, some based on the leaf shapes of the area, of imaginary creatures that might live in the woods. These works also have a history in the imagery of the Green Man, a Western European deity that symbolizes nature spirits and is found carved into many English cathedrals.

To combine my environmentalism and interest in sustainability with my artistic practice is part of my learning process. These works, created with natural, non-toxic pigments and eggs, will not harm the woods they are in. These painted trees express my deep connection and admiration for our natural world. They encourage the viewer to walk in and appreciate the natural environment. They are meant to be part of nature, not separate.
I have been grinding my own pigments, using natural mediums and binders such as eggs, gum, 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.

One issue in artistic production has been a battle against nature, in terms of trying to preserve the work for eternity. I have vowed to ‘let nature win’. My tree paintings, made with eggs and pigments, decay and decompose in the space of 6-12 months. The use of the eggs as a binder is strong enough to preserve the work for several months, but then begins to gradually fade away, and finally deteriorates altogether. The works painted in May 2010 would not be visible in May 2011. They will not be part of our societies’ accumulation of stuff.

The work is in this way, anti-materialist and anti-consumerist, and attempts to also function as a critique of art as commodity. These works are not possible to own. They will disappear in a year and there will only be photographic documentation of the works and the installation and memory

 

Richard Metz 2010

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