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Definitely something
Artist Jack Metcalf finds inspiration in what others discard.
Works by Jack Metcalf

Jack Metcalf is bidding farewell to Savannah after several years here as an artist and bartender. He waves goodbye, not with a tear in his eye, but with his art hanging for a solo show.

Maybe Something, Maybe Nothing debuts next week at the Oglethorpe Gallery.

The title describes the inspiration for the show; an eclectic collection of illustrations, found objects and mixed media collages

Metcalf takes found objects ranging from bar napkin doodles to childhood drawings and reinterprets them – breathing new life into the scraps that might have otherwise been discarded or lost.

“The whole show centers around the concept of the possibility of beauty in chance,” says Metcalf.

In the re–discovery of these objects, Metcalf’s work is permeated with a strong sense of remembrance, while also casually noting the effects of passing time. These found objects encapsulate very singular moments for the artist, and in re–interpreting them as new work, he travels back in time and preserves what he deems significant, ensuring that the most important elements are saved.

In few places is that more evident than in “Remembering you from the objects I find,” where a casual meeting with another artist was all but forgotten until he stumbled across a note she had written for him in a matchbook.

The moment came rushing back. They had initially discussed trading some art, but instead, he asked her for some test images she was planning on throwing away so that he might use them to inspire something new.

“When I rediscovered this note, I checked out her website, and was very impressed,” says Metcalf. “I presented her with the idea of letting me draw into some of her works that she might have tossed aside for one reason or another, and this is what it became.”

It is these chance encounters that form the ideological foundation of the show, and in capturing them the artist asks viewers to take a closer look at their own days and nights, begging the question: Which of the moments in your day could be something more than what it seems?

“I’m inspired by everyday adventures,” says Metcalf. “I think everything adds a certain something.”

The show’s title also describes the method of pricing the work.

“Everything is going to be priced at the decision of the buyer,” he says, hoping that viewers will pay something but acknowledging that someone could walk away with everything in the show for next to nothing.

“I am more concerned in making art, then selling it,” he adds.

Because so much of the personal meaning behind his work is found in the origins of the objects he uses, Metcalf will also include background stories, each hanging with its corresponding piece during the show.

For his piece “And as I knew it, she was gone,” Metcalf draws upon the Kafkaesque motif of an ex–girlfriend’s face attached to the body of a cockroach, an element that he’s used several times in what he refers to as the “Roachel” series.

“The idea of turning Rachel into a cockroach deals with having a very difficult time getting her out of my thoughts, similar to getting cockroaches out of my kitchen,” explains Metcalf. “As much as I tried to clean my kitchen they would always return, and the same went with trying to forget about Rachel.”

Taking to heart the old adage that ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure,’ one might assume that Metcalf was a hermetical pack rat surrounded by stacks of scraps, but all of his objects are kept in a box, the contents of which he visits when searching for inspiration.

“The childhood drawing my mom recently dug up when she was cleaning out an old cabinet,” says Metcalf. “Some things I’ve had for a few months and then I revisit them.”

There are few, if any, places that Metcalf won’t search for inspiration, and he is particularly fond of working from the discarded inspirations of other artists.

“I’ll go through their studio and the pile of trash and take home some things I think have potential,” Metcalf says. “I did that with a couple local friends and then I’ll re–work it.”

Beyond the interplay of found objects and their artistically inspired offspring, there are also several original works that stem solely from the imagination of the artist.

The diverse nature of the work as well as the moments that inspired each piece, make the show difficult to describe, so much so that even the artist has a problem putting into words exactly what the essence of the work is.

“I have been having this ongoing conversation with myself about what I create for over a decade, so I find it very hard to summarize what I do when people who have not been around for the majority of the conversation ask me to describe my work,” he says.

Although the work varies in style and message, the glue that holds it together is the medium.

“I consider pen and ink my primary and honest medium,” Metcalf explains. “It is the same medium I have used since I was a preschooler. Now, I am just a lot more anal about it.”

The work is playful, never taking itself too seriously, but visually stimulating, and when tied to the stories behind each piece, also deeply personal. It may have humor, but it’s not to be taken lightly. 

“Maybe Something, Maybe Nothing” by Jack Metcalf

When: May 12–18. Opening reception: May 14, 6–9 p.m.

Where: Oglethorpe Gallery, 406 E. Oglethorpe St.

Cost: Free