For a long time, Timm Mettler wanted to be a veterinarian. He was an animal lover who kept a menagerie of pets. As a student in the Gibbs High School arts magnet program – the Pinellas County Center for the Arts – he discovered his talent and passion for creating, and as he dove headfirst into his art the veterinarian thing fell by the wayside.
“When I moved to New York,” Mettler says, “I brought a lot of plants from Florida, and I treated them like very slow pets. As somebody who has had to move around a lot, my love for animals would be too burdensome for that particular city.
“With that being said, I’m five months into being a new dad. So the caring aspect of who I am eventually rolled into being a dad.”
Happily nested with wife and new daughter in the Big Apple, this St. Petersburg native works as a “registrar” (sort of a jack-of-all-trades) in a trendy NoHo Gallery that represents modernist and contemporary Indian and Pakistani artists and has lots of global museum and gallery clients.
Mettler is a painter, photographer and the creator of assemblage works, in the vein of pioneers Joseph Cornell and Robert Rauschenberg.
Stabilimentum, opening Friday at thestudio@620, is an exhibition of these pieces, which Mettler refers to as “Cornellian box work.” They’re essentially wooden box frames, with a painting set against the back, and a 3D web-like creation using scraps and found objects crisscrossing the frame in the foreground.
(A stabilimentum is an ornate construction put up by certain spider species, usually in the very center of the web. Its actual function in nature is debated; the concept, however, spoke to Mettler.)
“All of these works, almost every one you’ll see in this show, are from castaway things,” the artist explains. “They are all arrived at out of happenstance, or trying to salvage the materials I found around me, specifically at my job.”
Often, is work at Aicon includes cleaning, stretching and trimming canvases, as well as packing up fragile artworks for shipment somewhere in the world. Sometimes, the detritus of these activities – “unloved or thrown-away or discarded objects, things, materials” – ends up in his own very original work.
In 2006, he began volunteering at thestudio@620, and had his first solo show (Series of Shifting Landscapes) at the venue the following year. He was the designated Artistic Associate/Program Manager between 2008 and 2010.
Life journeys of differing objective and design took him to both New York and Chicago, and eventually Mettler returned home to get his Fine Arts B.A. from Eckerd College.
He’s lived in New York since 2013 and has been making art, his way, ever since. “I will work on anything pertaining to making a piece of art,” he declares. “Whatever I define art as.”
He is, he adds, an obtainer of found objects. “One of my teachers at Gibbs taught me how to stretch a canvas. I look at that as a thing I can always do quickly as a ready-made; all I need is some wood and some fabric. It can be an old shirt and some sticks for the wood. You can stretch a skin over any bones is what I’m trying to say.”
At the end of his daily shift at Aicon, before he rides his bicycle home (“I bike everywhere in New York City”) he’ll take 20 minutes to work on his own stuff.
“I will take a roller, once I’m done painting the walls for the gallery changeover, and just roll it off on this thing,” Mettler says. “Just so I can get some paint.”
In 620’s back room, Mettler is hanging a second exhibit, A Small Thing But My Own – Titles From a Howard Hodgkin Painting, 25 small canvases works by people he likes and has been influenced by. “I’m a champion of small works,” he explains, “and the intimacy that comes with dense things.
Hanging through Dec. 19, Stabilimentum is a portrait of Timm Mettler, 2022. “I dread waste, I guess is a way of looking at it,” he says. “Or I see lost potential and it makes me very maudlin. And I must rescue it. Kind of like rescuing a cat from a tree.”
All details are here.