Amy Metier’s work is progressing well when it feels like she’s “falling right into a piece,” she says. Indeed, the pursuit of immersion resonates throughout the artist’s paintings, collages and prints. Plunging viewers into portals of emotions, colors and movement, her large-scale works are, Metier explains, “human-sized experiences.”
Though abstract in style, each piece subtly invokes real-world inspirations, from the floor plans of vast Roman cathedrals to the surreal paintings of Spanish artist Francisco Goya. Hints of representation thus appear, which observers may discern with different levels of perception. “It’s similar to a Rorschach test,” notes Metier of her more figurative approach to abstraction. “Viewers need something to interact with and interpret.”
Indeed, the artist’s process revolves around creating evocative compositions. Riffing off reference images, she first sketches drafts in black and white “to gauge whether a piece has enough contrast.” Then, as she transmutes the drawing into its prismatic form, she photographs her progress and desaturates the image to study its tonal range.
For her solo show at the William Havu Gallery in May, Metier turned her eye to the dramatic cliffs of County Mayo, on the picturesque west coast of Ireland. There, she drew inspiration from towering, isolated rock formations called sea stacks, and how their sedimentary layers create “different strands of colors all the way up to the top, revealing ancient geology.” The artist plays with these striations in her new collage series, in which she incorporates blocks of color alongside reclaimed paper to form her own painterly topography.
Throughout her most recent works, Metier’s been attracted to “having things seem a bit off-balance,” she muses. “I love that tension when it looks like it’s about to topple.” And to create paintings that truly envelop their viewer, she favors 5- to 6-foot-tall canvases. As she often works on multiple pieces at once, these vast paintings fill her workspace at the Blue Silo Studios, a converted 19th-century creamery in Denver’s RiNo Art District. When light pours through the factory windows, the artist often feels giddy with possibility. “For me, art has been this wonderful lifelong endeavor,” she says. “It comes down to really learning about yourself as a person.”