Jacob Metzger is a perfectionist.
The trait has allowed him to become the ideal professional graphic designer - paying attention to even the most minute details of composition, color or typography.
But in his free time, the 29-year-old Hollidaysburg native is able to use his abstract artwork as both a creative outlet and a necessary release.
Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich
This large-scale painting, titled “Inner Demon,” welcomes visitors to the exhibit “Death to Life: The Paintings of Jacob D. Metzger” at the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art at Altoona.
"Before I started doing more abstract art, if [a piece] wasn't perfect, I would throw it out," Metzger said. "It was more of a release for me to work in these mediums and not have to worry about it being perfect."
Locals can see Metzger's less-than-perfect, but still vibrant and thoughtful exhibition, "Death to Life: The Paintings of Jacob D. Metzger," which is on display through May 26 at The Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art at Altoona. The exhibit features a 30-work, mixed-media series that juxtaposes the image of a human skull with color, texture and bold lines.
Metzger said he's been into art since he was a kid. With his mother, father and grandmother also being artists, it was already in his blood.
If you go
What: "Death to Life: The Paintings of Jacob D. Metzger"
When: Through May 26
Where: Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art at Altoona, the Brett Building, 1210 11th Ave., Altoona
Museum hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday
Additional event: The museum will celebrate the exhibition at a Blue Monday program on May 14. The event begins at 6 p.m. and features a light supper. Music will be provided by Stormy featuring Charlie Leiden. Cost is $20 per person. For reservations, call the museum at 946-4464.
"It's just something I naturally had," he said.
Metzger found a teacher and mentor early o in Nancy Sheetz, the wife of Sheetz Inc. chairman Steve Sheetz. She helped him set up his debut exhibit in 2009 at Michael's Cafe in Altoona and allowed him to start working as a designer for Sheetz Inc. at age 14. He now works as a design director for Marketspace Communications, a full-service agency based in Pittsburgh.
This show at SAMA-Altoona is Metzger's largest display of his fine art, and what drove him to create all 30 pieces of the new series in just five months to ensure that it would be ready in time.
"It was quite an opportunity," Metzger said. "I'm very grateful. It's pretty hard in the art community to get a show in a museum, and not just a gallery."
The pieces of "Death to Life" were made on a canvas of wood, using paper for the color and finishing with black ink to create the bold lines. Metzger said each started as thumbnail sketches, but changed depending on how the color and the composition turn out. He added that he used a wood canvas because he is a fan of texture.
"It's not necessarily grungy, but I didn't want it to be flat," he said. "The wood helped provide texture because of the splintered edges and grooves."
Though Metzger recognizes skulls have become a fad or a trend in the art community, that didn't have an affect on Metzger's decision to feature them in his exhibit.
"I remember drawing skulls on church bulletins when I was 10 years old," he said. "I thought they would be cool to use as a frame work because they have inspired me."
Metzger said the exhibit represents looking at death and life in a different way. By juxtaposing the skull imagery with bright, variant colors, it reflects how people have different features, but when you look down to the core - the skull - we all look the same.
"I sometimes call it bringing death to life," Metzger said of the exhibit.
Museum coordinator Barbara Hollander said she doesn't necessarily look at the skull theme when she views Metzger's exhibit, but the human forms are interesting to see alongside the variety shapes and colors.
"It's really what abstract art is all about," she said. "It's abstract, but they're getting the forms from somewhere - from people, nature or other things."
And though it is abstract art, Hollander said Metzger's sense of composition is "spot on," along with his color choices.
"Each piece makes sense, and each piece is a work of art that could stand alone," she added. "Even though this is a series, each piece is exquisite."
Metzger said composition is extremely important to him, and it holds value whether he is working on a canvas or an advertising campaign.
"It's one thing you always have to keep in mind," he said, adding that he applies many other graphic design principles to his art and vice versa. "Composition really provides the structure."
Hollander hung each of the pieces in the exhibit, and arranged them in a palette to reflect the colors of the rainbow. Some of the pieces have names that correspond with their colors, with yellow or orange installments called "Invigorating" or "Cognizant," and blue or green pieces named "Liveliness" and "Substance."
Metzger said that wasn't necessarily intended, but that each of the names were derived from the overall idea of life, and the words that explain it.
"There are things that are found in life that aren't associated with death," he said.
Because this exhibit isn't associated with a traditional execution like realism, Metzger hopes that people will take a chance to go and see this fresh, new approach.
"The thinking behind it is extremely different, especially for the area," he said. "I think it's something different that could help introduce people to a whole new style of art."
Mirror Staff Writer Beth Ann Downey is at 946-7520.