Visual Arts

A random sculpture appears, a mystery is solved

In the pale light of dawn yesterday, an odd thing appeared in front of the Westword office: a sculpture, roughly four feet tall, made of wire and duct tape. Crafted to resemble an open hand, the sculpture sported an array of colors and textures, along with a couple of painstakingly constructed, diorama-like scenes, one of a city and one of a farm, embedded in the wrist. Placed in the palm of the hand, with a phone number at the bottom, was a cryptic note: "The alien force that holds the planets, the soldiers of constant wars that bleed to the evicted from the cities and farms," it read.

It was either a poem or a death threat, and since I don't really do anything all day except play Boggle and practice yo-yo tricks, that was all I needed to call and find out.

"I just kind of wanted somebody to recognize me," said Ryan Metzler, the artist at the other end of the line, when I asked him why he left a crazy sculpture in front of our office -- and that was a relief, because most of the time when I call the numbers on the random cryptic notes people leave me, I somehow end up with a restraining order.

As it turns out, Metzler is a DIY sculpture artist who's been fashioning pieces from wire and tape for some time now -- he just hasn't been advertising it. Tied to a day-job, Metzler just makes the pieces and keeps them, mostly, though he's sold a couple and given a few to his friends. The piece he left out front, he said, involved about 440 feet of wire, 600 feet of duct tape, several dozen toy soldiers and a couple of toy cars.

What he had said in the note, he explained, was him trying to elucidate his concept for the piece, which was basically a commentary on human folly with a roomy weird streak -- he described one part of it this way: "The galaxy ice cream cone is being sucked into a black hole."

When he's not blowing his own mind, Metzler enjoys needling the art establishment.

"At the Cherry Creek Arts Festival, I drove around with a couple of pieces tied to my car in protest," he said, "because they only take prestigious artists -- they don't focus on Denver artists at all. I had this one friend, she paints these pictures of animals that are so realistic, you just want to reach out and pet them. And they turned her down. So I protested.

"I've never left a piece anywhere, though," he said.

So why do it now? "Yeah, I guess I was just looking for some recognition on this one," he ruminated. "I'm turning 44, and I guess I'm kind of having a mid-life crisis. I don't know how old you are, but it comes around."

Part of that midlife crisis is perhaps his day job, about which Metzler did not radiate enthusiasm: "I'm a groundskeeper for an apartment building," he said. "I've been doing it for about 25 years now, and I would love to do something else.

"If you guys ever need anything made," he added, "I can build anything with a coathanger."