WHAT IT TAKES TO BE A PLEIN AIR ARTIST

6 REA­SONS TO RE­USE, RE­CY­CLE AND RE­FRESH

RSWLiving - - Front Page - BY DAVID ACEVEDO

While driv­ing down the busy streets of Green­point, one can­not help but be amazed at the im­pos­ing graf­fiti all over the city. The peo­ple on the streets move rapidly in masses as if they were run­ning late or away from some­thing. There are cars and trucks, and more cars await­ing the all too com­mon traf­fic lights to turn green, and then more peo­ple ap­pear out of nowhere, cross­ing streets and zigzag­ging re­lent­lessly from one side­walk to the other. Ev­ery­one must have some­thing very im­por­tant to do in Green­point to­day. At least I know I do, as I fi­nally find the end­ing point on my map.

Walk­ing into Ryan Metke’s New York stu­dio is like walk­ing into a par­al­lel di­men­sion. The con­trast between the world out­side the colos­sal Brook­lyn build­ing and the cre­ative space in­side is as­tound­ing. Old hard­wood floor­ing, high ceil­ings, stairs to nowhere and the ex­posed pip­ing are just a stim­u­lat­ing back­ground to the mas­sive paint­ings, sculp­tures and lots, and lots of paint tubes, brushes and pen­cils. Here, Metke lives and breathes art.

To think that Metke’s work is in­flu­enced by the ur­ban sur­round­ings of his space may be likely, but ut­terly in­ac­cu­rate. This artist’s work comes from a deeper sense of self and from a heart full of noble emo­tions. A few words into our con­ver­sa­tion and I knew I was deal­ing with much more than su­per­fi­cial, aes­thet­i­cal pro­jects. The ge­nius of Metke comes from a life of imag­i­nary ex­plo­ration, thor­ough re­search and a pas­sion for lit­er­ary masterpieces such as Thor Hey­er­dahl’s

Kon- Tiki and Sail­ing Alone Around the World by Joshua Slocum, both ad­ven­tur­ers and ex­plor­ers who com­piled their mar­itime ex­pe­di­tions for the world to en­joy. Having trav­eled to other con­ti­nents him­self, Metke safe­guards his own ad­ven­tures and con­cocts his vi­brant works of art about th­ese trav­els. A few years back, the artist spent three months in In­done­sia as­sist­ing on a doc­u­men­tary.

Metke was born in Fort My­ers. “Right on the river,” he says, re­fer­ring to the Caloosa­hatchee River, which serves as the in­spi­ra­tion for the newly named River District in down­town Fort My­ers. He grew up in South­west Florida un­til he made his way to Sa­van­nah, Ga., to at­tend the Sa­van­nah Col­lege of Art and De­sign in 1998. Af­ter grad­u­at­ing in 2003, Metke re­turned to Fort My­ers where he planned and pro­duced a very suc­cess­ful ex­hi­bi­tion in the space now oc­cu­pied by the Franklin Shops in down­town Fort My­ers. This is where he met for­mer gallery owner Terry Tincher.

“We showed Metke’s work [ at the gallery] in April of 2010, and we sold a great deal of his work. I per­son­ally own three of his large- scale pieces and love his work,” says the avid col­lec­tor and Space 39 founder. Tincher says that Metke’s works speak for them­selves. “They are rem­i­nis­cent of JeanMichel Basquiat’s works, but more re­fined. He [ Metke] knows what his voice is and where he is go­ing,” adds Tincher, who re­cently be­gan work­ing as the agent for Mar­cus Jansen, an­other pro­lific South­west Florida artist.

In 2003, Metke de­cided to move to New York and ul­ti­mately found the per­fect place to house his stu­dio, an old bath­house build­ing in the Brook­lyn sub­urb. “This city caters to the art world, and I think this is a good place for me to pro­duce and pro­mote my work,” says the South­west Florida na­tive while show­ing me a fas­ci­nat­ing col­lec­tion of wasp nest sculp­tures casted in bronze. Such pieces, as well as other se­ries that the artist pro­duces in par­tic­u­lar ar­eas of the stu­dio, touch on en­vi­ron­men­tal sub­jects in the form of clever in­stal­la­tions.

The care­fully crafted crate that houses the real nests used to cast the sculp­tures is dec­o­rated with the artist’s sig­na­ture letters, num­bers and sym­bols, im­ply­ing a form of art by it­self. Th­ese wasp nests are cov­ered with wax in or­der to cre­ate the molds for the bronze cast­ings. It is an in­ge­nious take on na­ture

“My paint­ings are maps, and if you look closely you may find that I am try­ing to take you from one place to an­other with the images.”

— Ryan Metke

rep­re­sented as art with the in­tact repli­ca­tion and per­pet­u­a­tion of each piece. The wasp nest pieces are what Metke calls “site spe­cific in­stal­la­tions.” This means that the mi­cro- sculp­tures are to be in­stalled in places where a real nest would be found nat­u­rally. The cast­ings, which are coated with a thin layer of gold as a fi­nal step, are as in­tri­cate as they are in­trigu­ing.

Con­tin­u­ing the stu­dio tour, Metke points out that he is fol­low­ing his love of sto­ry­telling and uti­liz­ing car­tog­ra­phy as the in­spi­ra­tion for his paint­ings. “My paint­ings are maps, and if you look closely you may find that I am try­ing to take you from one place to an­other with the images,” he adds, as we ad­mire

Spi­der Love hang­ing from one of the vast walls in the space. There are count­less clues, icons, num­bers, words and images in this paint­ing. It takes only a mo­ment to re­al­ize the road map char­ac­ter­is­tics of the com­po­si­tion.

The sto­ries and mes­sages told by the artist are there, com­pletely open for per­sonal in­ter­pre­ta­tion, and yet the work does not feel con­strained to the can­vas. Metke’s paint­ings seem to sug­gest puz­zles that you, as the spec­ta­tor, are en­cour­aged to vi­su­al­ize and dis­cover. The most no­tice­able at­tributes of Metke’s pieces are the vi­brant colors and the un­apolo­getic use of black out­lines, dig­i­tal me­dia, spray paint and other un­con­ven­tional medi­ums. Th­ese paint­ings are pop art with­out the glitzi­ness.

Linked to his map- in­spired paint­ings is the Take One Down se­ries, con­sist­ing of a col­lec­tion of mes­sages in glass bot­tles, lit­er­ally. Metke cen­ters on the as­pect of hu­man com­mu­ni­ca­tion with a col­lec­tion of 99 re­cy­cled glass bot­tles, which he uti­lizes as ves­sels for maps and text stamped on cop­per sheets. This fas­ci­nat­ing project, di­rectly in­spired by his love of mar­itime ad­ven­ture books and car­tog­ra­phy re­search, in­volves other par­tic­i­pants who will­ingly take on the task of re­leas­ing the bot­tles in oceans all over the world. Metke and some of his friends have re­leased them in dif­fer­ent parts of the planet.

I could not help but in­vite my­self to be one of Metke’s mes­sen­gers by re­leas­ing one of his bot­tles on the coast of the Ir­ish town of Brae, dur­ing a re­cent visit. It is just one of the many pieces now float­ing around the Pacific, the Caribbean, Europe, North Amer­ica and South Amer­ica.

Metke main­tains a de­tailed de­scrip­tion of ev­ery sin­gle bot­tle, the mes­sage in­side and the lat­i­tude and lon­gi­tude of the lo­ca­tions where they have been re­leased. He plans to con­tinue send­ing the pieces of this project around the world un­til all 99 of them are gone. To date, only five of the bot­tles have been re­cov­ered. The in­tri­cate, hand- writ­ten and dec­o­rated log used as a record for the project is a piece of art in its own right. Metke proudly out­lines the text stamped onto the cop­per sheets and up­dates it as soon as he is con­tacted by a finder.

The mes­sages in­side the bot­tles are ex­cerpts from the many mar­itime books the artist reads, and the maps pro­vide the con­tact in­for­ma­tion for re­port­ing the find. The Take One Down project is on­go­ing, and it is a bridge for the artist’s tran­si­tion from one idea to an­other. More on the sub­ject can be found on the artist’s web­site at ryan­metke. com.

Cur­rently rep­re­sented by the ground­break­ing Erick Fire­stone Gallery in East Hamp­ton, N. Y., Metke has shown in other gal­leries in the city and is reach­ing for more rep­re­sen­ta­tion in and out­side New York. He con­fesses his de­sire to pro­duce a se­ries of three- di­men­sional works in the near future. In the mean­time, he plans on con­tin­u­ing his quest for trea­sures. Armed with his maps, books, mes­sages and an en­thu­si­as­tic heart, he sails on to­wards new artis­tic des­ti­na­tions, and we can­not wait for what’s to come from this in­ge­nious man.

Metke’s stu­dio strikes a nice bal­ance between cre­ative work space and ar­eas for re­lax­ation.

rswliv­ing. com Pub­lished by TOTI Me­dia, Inc.

The artist’s Take One Down se­ries is a far- reach­ing work that puts bot­tles with maps and mes­sages afloat in the world’s oceans. Metke metic­u­lously logs all ves­sels sent and re­cov­ered.

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