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Spotlight, William Metcalf, 2005

illiam Metcalf has always liked making things with his hands. From the time he could hold a pencil, he began to draw, and soon he progressed to building intricate models, mostly of anything that moves through space. As an adult, Metcalf moved from model airplanes to home-built aircraft, and ultimately to a form of artwork that essentially works as a craft for navigating perceptual space.
 
Metcalf identifies all these activities, as well as preferred recreational activities such as flying an airplane, riding a motorcycle, skiing and diving, as manifestations of his desire to experience the physical sensation of moving through three-dimensional space. In his artwork, this interest translates into a persistent involvement with issues involving light and space; in his latest work, movement is an important ingredient as well.
 
Sculptural paintings made on translucent polyester stretched on shaped frames, these pieces hark back to Metcalf’s early fascination with the spatial dynamics of fabric stretched over the frame of an airplane wing. In the meantime, formal training (a B.A. in Art from California State University at Fullerton), the acquisition of highly developed drafting skills, and a long and varied career as a painter have given Metcalf the necessary expertise to transform his interest in these issues into original and compelling works of art.
 
Although Metcalf’s painting style has, by his own description, evolved through a number of permutations roughly approximating the history of art, he sees the polyester work as the culmination of his ability to extract an individual style from the specific influences he has chosen. 

The idea to use polyester came as something of an epiphany. As he was reading a description of a Robert Ryman painting done on polyester, it occurred to him that this would be the ideal material for achieving the quasi-sculptural painting mode that he was seeking. Never one to lose time, Metcalf ran right out to the fabric store and began a phase of his career that has produced an important innovation in painting: the incorporation of interior space into what has heretofore remained primarily an opaque, flat medium. 

The polyester paintings hang flat against the wall, but their shapes and composition offer the viewer a complex experience of light, space and movement. As a highly refined exploration of space and light, they provide the viewer with a series of sails for cruising the perceptual realm.

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