Jack Metzger, Plate Tectonics

Sculpture, Mixed Media, Stone, metal, ceramic

I collect bits and pieces of history. It might be a rusted finial from a 19th century fence post, a broken 19th century stoneware jug, or a wooden shovel with old repairs. A shape, texture, or design will catch my eye and I feel that it will be a part of my art someday. Part of my excitement comes from that initial “not-knowing,” a prominent stage in any self-taught artist’s journey. Many of the things that I save have been broken, lost, abandoned, discarded and forgotten, and these eventually become my art.

My passion for treasure hunting has led me into cellars and attics, through 18th and 19th century outbuildings and dump sites. Long before I considered that these found objects could be turned into something new, I was fascinated by what they might have been. At six years old, I believed the woods behind my house went on for miles and miles. My first big find, a discovery I happened upon all on my own, was an abandoned farm well. One thing led to another and I found myself at its bottom, excavating 19th century clay pipes, small antique glass bottles, and broken stoneware pottery. My mind raced with who, why, when, what and beyond- so beginning my fascination of objects with forgotten stories and histories to share.

My expeditions continue through my life, growing and changing with me. I’ve dug in privies at age 12, rummaged through antique farm implements in a tuxedo at 35, pulled pieces of old mill machinery (and I still don’t always know what) out of river banks last summer at 67. So often, the artifacts and implements spark something deep inside, and I feel the same thrill as I did at the bottom of the abandoned well, brushing a layer of dirt off an abandoned treasure trove.

But, often, I stop moving and just sit, perhaps holding a piece of broken 18th century pottery. Maybe it has a beautiful leaf pattern, or a word on it, and I know that it belongs with another piece that I found, possibly years earlier. There is something special about putting pieces, each with its unique history, together. The practice of observing how one supports the other, creating something new and whole, is an art that continues to be deeply satisfying to me. I hope to uplift people with my work, and I think maybe they will find this wholeness in themselves, as I have begun to. Life never turns out like you think it will. Sometimes we feel broken, worthless, and without value, and something or someone comes along to help us remember that although life may go differently than planned, it has not diminished us: it has made us better.

Jack Metzger is an artist and the owner of Jack’s Outback in Cambridge, New York. He works with discarded found objects from the past and reimagines them as sculptures. He has shown throughout the region and is grateful to be a part of NBOSS at the Bennington Museum.