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Narratives, notes, diary entries, and all things written by contemporary American artist Beck Metzbower, an East-Coast mom of three, lover of Oreos (with organic peanut butter!), and obsessive-extraordinaire of all things texture.

Porphura Period, an interview

© Beck Metzbower, Porphura Period, 2019

© Beck Metzbower, Porphura Period, 2019

Porphura Period is a body of art that focuses in the colours purple and violet, emphasizes texture and pattern, and explores the social context of this hue. The following questions were selected from social media messages and each participant has agreed to have their first names, last initial, and individual question published as part of this interview.

© Beck Metzbower, Porphura Period, 2019

© Beck Metzbower, Porphura Period, 2019

Matt L.: The last post you made about this art mentioned you having a dream about someone “you used to know” dying. Who was it and did you two end the friendship on bad terms?

Beck: It was a relative and we no longer communicate. I believe this dream was a way for my subconscious to make peace with the parting and to dismiss the person permanently from my mind by leaving with kind feelings and no ill will towards the person. So I have come to the conclusion that, in life, we will always come across people who we will have unpleasant experiences with and most of the time- these people aren’t here for the whole book- just a chapter or two. I firmly believe (and teach my children) that every single person is connected, their presence in your life and you in theirs has a purpose, learn that purpose or that lesson, make sure you have yourself together and that you’re acting in a way that honors you (don’t be the problem and if you are: evolve into a better version of yourself), and then let that chapter pass with gratitude for the experience and goodwill towards the person. We have to take control of our experiences or they will take control of us.

Maria V.: How long did each piece take to make and which piece is your favorite?

Beck: Thank you for asking this, Maria. The time it takes to make art by hand is often overlooked in the age of ‘push a button and art comes out’ technology. So each piece takes several weeks of stop+and+go studio work. I am constantly working on multiple pieces at a time because of how long oil paint takes to dry AND then I have to multiply that drying time by 14 because I use fourteen times the amount of oil paint that a traditional oil paint artist uses. As far as having a favourite piece (from this body of work) that would definitely be the 24’X24” because I love squares. I’m weird about shapes. My most hated shape is the diamond. Like, how dare you? But I love squares. And triangles, Trapezoids are an abomination in my opinion- and I’m fully aware of how hilarious that sounds. Squares are my jam.

© Beck Metzbower, Porphura Period, 2019

© Beck Metzbower, Porphura Period, 2019

Amanda S.: Why do you insist on using oil paint- wouldn’t using acrylic be safer and cheaper? You could lower the prices to make them more affordable to the average person if you didn’t have to use the most expensive paint out there! No offense- but it’s stupid.

Beck: Well, Amanda, I insist on using oil paint for many reasons. The first reason is that I’m the artist and it’s my right to use whatever materials I want. The second is that I’ve delved really deep into materials already- the ‘whys hows whats prices sources’ etc. And the outcome was that oil paint is the highest quality, the most historically relevant, and I prefer its form. You mention safety and I’d like to point out that while there is a risk factor of fumes while it dries (I use safety masks and a special ventilation system)- once it’s fully dry- the piece is perfectly safe. It’s also made of natural elements. Usually the specific pigment and linseed oil, simple but quality ingredients. Unlike other mediums, which are results of artificial methods and materials. Sure acrylic is cheaper- but cheaper means cheap. Material quality is important and some materials simply last longer. No shade to acrylic artists or non-oil painters, everyone has the right to choose their own medium. I choose oil paint because oil paintings have outlasted acrylic paintings by a long shot. And my work is intended to stay in art collections, be passed down to next generations, and to be housed in permanent art institutions: so material life expectancy is vital for me. And lastly, I want to address the ‘average person’ comment. Who is the average person? Because the average person (and their corresponding income, purchasing decisions, financial priorities, interest in art, etc) changes vastly with each demographic by location, education, social upbringing, and family background. You messaged me this question from an iPhone XS. People invest in what they prioritize. I will not undervalue my work for people who undervalue my work.

Kareese R.: I want to start by saying thank you!!! You are an inspiration to single mothers everywhere- I don’t know how you do it. And that IS my question for you dear: HOW do you do it? Your strength is inspiring!! I love your work!!

Beck: Thank you. Messages like these are always so validating. I rarely stop and look at my progress or the impact I’m having on others- so your message was a kind reminder. How do I do it? I had to initially make peace with the fact that I am an artist whether I like it or not. It’s rooted in a very creative depth within me. Then I decided where I wanted to be in my life, what was important to me, and specific goals. I collected the tools necessary to obtain those goals (education, training, specific experiences, etc.) and basically created a plan to reach my goals through baby steps. And as far as the whole single mother part- I don’t really sit with that label too often. Partly because I’m too busy and partly because I don’t view myself as ‘single’ or ‘solo parenting’ (indicating that someone is missing)- this is simply my life and it is complete exactly as it is. I am really grateful for where I am in life, the people around me, the experiences I’m currently moving through, and all the ones ahead of me.

© Beck Metzbower, Porphura Period, 2019

© Beck Metzbower, Porphura Period, 2019

Antony S.: What was the most interesting thing to happen while making this collection of artwork?

Beck: I’ve already talked about the Mary’s Halo piece here, so I’ll tell you the second most interesting thing: I bought out a specific hue of oil paint and it was sold out everywhere. None on the shelves, none online, all backordered. This isn’t new for me- it’s just a pain in the ass when I can’t complete a piece. I also do feel a twinge of guilt because I know that I’m inconveniencing other artists. Yikes, sorry. So if you live in my area and go to buy paint and it’s all sold out: my bad. That was probably me.

Li Xiu Ying K.: Do you come from a family of artists? Was this skill passed down to you?

Beck: I do not. I am the first and only (that I know of) artist in my family. My ancestors were definitely entrepreneurs, though. Many owned their own businesses, the majority were immigrants, many came from poverty and made something of themselves. And they were an interesting bunch. One female ancestors got kicked out of her church for being too ‘defiant’ about women’s roles. Another was an outlaw. horse thief (way to uphold the family honor, geez). My grandfathers were both military. My great grandfather was a full-blooded Irish boxer- so you can blame him for passing down that temperament to me. But no artists. So I have no clue how I didn’t end up in a more traditional career. Not complaining.

© Beck Metzbower, Porphura Period, 2019

© Beck Metzbower, Porphura Period, 2019

Jessica A.: Would you reconsider selling the Mary’s Halo piece? I’m Catholic and believe that God has spoken using this painting.

Beck: I have gotten many requests to put this piece in the collection for art collectors to acquire. I’m 50/50 right now. I’m not sure what the purpose of the incident was- so when I have a clearer view I will make my decision. I mean, why did this happen? Both on a science/material level and on a spiritual/social/personal level. I know there is a reason. After almost a decade making art- anytime something significant happens- it’s for a specific reason and it always leads me down my next path. I need to figure all that out before I part ways and let it continue its journey. The collection releases this Friday.

Christopher M.: How do you not die from the fumes? I use oil paint and the smell is overwhelming- but the amount you use? That’s crazy!?!?!?

Beck: Masks. Special ventilation systems. I did, back in 2015, discover a way to dry them more quickly. There is a really, really awful thing called a ‘Dog Gas Chamber’ and it’s still being used by animal shelters across the U.S. to inhumanely euthanize dogs and cats the same way Holocaust victims were gassed. It’s horrible and I am getting chills just writing about it. I partially witnessed it once while volunteering at a local animal shelter in W.V. and it was horrific. The dogs knew what was happening and fought so hard to escape. I wasn’t allowed go into the back room where these dogs were being (literally) dragged into- but I’ll never forget that one poor dog’s final, desperate plea to escape death. I walked out of that shelter that day and never went back. I work towards having the financial influence to finding the solutions to over-capacity shelters., that’s a goal of mine. The science behind these gas chambers is conducive to drying oil quickly. I’ll never, ever use one of these machines because I thinks these chambers need to be destroyed and outlawed. So it’s just masks, ventilation systems, and being patient and letting them dry naturally.

© Beck Metzbower, Porphura Period, 2019

© Beck Metzbower, Porphura Period, 2019

Thank you to everyone who messaged and to each person whose question was chosen for this interview. Porphura Period will be available to registered art collectors on June 28th and you can register as an art collector here.

-Beck