Porchside Chats: An Interview with RWC Resident Artist Colleen Metzger

Franklin, TN artist Colleen McCormick Metzger visited RWC for a week in July where she worked in a self-made outdoor studio beside the Rockvale Cabin. We caught up with her a few weeks later to discuss the impact of her residency and learn more about her artistic process. Read the interview below:

1. As an artist, what was it that drew you to Rockvale Writers’ Colony?

As an artist, I draw much inspiration from the beauty of the landscape, not so much because I deal with landscape elements, but that it’s more of a feeling of home, a feeling that I can crawl into my own skin, delving deeper into heart, matter, and what makes me uniquely and mysteriously human. The peace of the countryside creates a quiet, yet dynamic  rhythm. Much like the chirping of frogs, crickets, and cicadas, it is mesmerizing, intoxicating, and helps one get into the natural rhythm and cycles of being a creative, as if a small yet connected special piece of of the universe is singing, rejoicing, and crying in unison with whatever medium one chooses to create with. 

The bucolic landscapes of Rockvale, Williamson County, College Grove, and middle Tennessee are the essence of what I find comforting, like a blanket of warm sun-drenched grass after a dew-filled evening under a full moon, rolling, stretching, slowly opening my sleep filled eyes, and the sound of soft chirping birds, sunlit shadows, and breezy branches taping on my window, awaking me softly at my own pace, while I more fully enter the rolling symphony of visual and visceral landscape and language of my fellow creatures and creatives. 

2. Tell us more about your art.
Cyanotype is a historical method of alternative photography resulting in striking blue-hued art on paper, textiles, and wood. My methods blend my intuitive style and the ephemeral essence of nature. All of my work is created plein-air (outdoors) using natural and found objects. No two images are exactly alike, as the elements remain in flux. The sun willingly guides its light, shadows, and reflections in a flickering dance upon the page. Time finally reveals a lasting impression which reverses when quenched by water, a mystical alchemy of sorts. 

3. What a beautiful and intriguing process! We know you have your own outdoor studio, so how was working at RWC different from working at home?

We all know that normal life has to coexist with the creative life, yet when one is gifted with the opportunity to delve deep in an environment that aesthetically, physically, and philosophically aligns with the flow of one’s own awakened rhythms, without the sheer volume of normal daily distractions, it is an opportunity to dig, listen, touch, see more openly. An effort to unify with a vision or version of yourself that you know is beneath the surface, yet needs time to retreat, time to self care, time to get back to oneself and be reminded of the power of the creative within.

Sometimes it is simply the gift of uninterrupted time with quiet, comfort, solitude, and humans that support and understand your creative endeavors.  Here, one is surrounded with like-minded individuals, yet comforted by the power of retreating, hermiting, at a moment’s notice without the risk of offending those around you. Everyone respects and understands the power of creative workflow. 

4. How were your days here structured? Was there any effect that RWC – and the Cabin – had on your work?

I was fortunate to have such great weather; Hot, bright, Tennessee days were a dream come true for the successful creation of work in the outdoor studio that Sandy and I envisioned in the shady and sunlit “outdoor open rooms” amidst the exterior walls of the Rockvale Cabin. Considering I work with the sun as one of my main mediums, the weather worked out perfect for production while responding to both the landscape and the historic, cozy, and comfortable cabin in which I stayed. 

Had the weather gods dealt a hand of clouds and rain for the week, my week would have looked very different. Likely it would have consisted of working on pieces that had already been developed and crafted. I may have altered them into a collage or mounted and prepared them for upcoming exhibitions. I likely would have read, researched, and worked on envisioning future bodies of work, concepts, proposals, and my website. It would have been every bit as valuable, yet it would have been a pivot from what we had envisioned my time to look like in terms of creating. As I write this, I realize how beneficial a rainy week would be for me as well, yet having sunshine and the landscape allowed me to respond to the environment in a physical and synergistic way. I was prepared to adapt and make a great week, no matter the weather. I will say, I did enjoy an evening solo swim each night as the sky shifted from day to dusk before I shifted to evening reading, relaxing, introspection while dreaming up how I might best utilize the next day that lies beyond the moon. 

5. Our tagline at RWC is “We believe in the power of words,” and the same can be said for visual art. Do you feel that your creative work has power and purpose? How does that power manifest itself for you? Why do you create? What is your inspiration? How do you hope to impact others?

I believe in the power of words, art, movement, sound, and mediums that empower and evoke the human spirit and human experience. Purpose is complex, yet I can say that my work has personal purpose as a way in which I find meaning and place in this magnificent and mysterious universe. I know no other more powerful way to lose myself and find myself at the same time (adapted and borrowed from Thomas Merton) yet connect to the world, creator, and universe beyond myself, beyond space and the confines of time in which we live. When nothing else makes sense, nature, creation, the constant movement and transitory nature of all living things is what helps me to make sense of my limited time on this earth.

For others, I hope to provide a sense of mystery, otherworldliness, movement, vignettes of the human experience through nature, the imagination, and intuitive guttural responses to the intrinsic connection to things beyond the ordinary, beyond material, beyond the present, to that which we can not fully comprehend or understand. Time, space, place, God, Creator, the Universe, the mysteries of our realities. 

6. What advice do you have for other artists (or writers) who are interested in a residency?

Believe –  Believe in what inspires you, Believe in those that support you, Believe in art, human kind, time space, place. Believe in your practice, craft, and your worth as an artist. Believe you have something to contribute to others and the world. Believe in the Universe. Believe in good. Believe in yourself. Believe in giving back. Believe in the Earth and believe Rockvale is a very special and mysterious life affirming place.