Stephanie Metz Fossil Series Artist's Statement
Fossils interest me as subject matter because they are long dead remains and yet their place in human consciousness and scholarship is vibrant, complicated, and ever changing.
Fossils are objects valued for what they are as well as what they stand for. Besides any aesthetic appeal or appreciation for their unlikely preservation, the fact that fossils help humans make sense of the earth's history is well documented. Fossils make concepts like geologic time, natural selection, evolution, and extinction tangibleunless you don't believe in such theories.
Such interpretive conflict is at the heart of why I paint fossils. Fossilized remains of organisms have been stirring up debate and challenging beliefs, biases, and the agendas of science and religion ever since their existence was first noted. Fossils force people to think about uncomfortable subjects: our place in the natural world, the conflict between religious historical records and biological timelines, and the fact that extinction is an ongoing process. Peoples' response to fossils can reveal a slice of the social flavor of a given time; however, that slice can be taken out of context, just as a fossil specimen is an isolated example used to make generalizations about a whole group of organisms.
In making my own fossil paintings I create 'evidence' and present it in a particular framework in order to suggest that interpretation is subjective, and that even 'hard evidence' is in essence quite malleable. I build up texture and rub off paint to create a layered and patinaed effect, indicative of weathering as well as layered meaning. In my paintings I want fossils to function as both objects and symbols. In my fossil series I am primarily concerned with the way physical evidence is reconciled with beliefs.
Fossils are inherently mysterious, whether considered as scientific puzzle pieces or heretical mythology. No matter how a skeleton is reconstructed or disavowed, the story behind that ancient life remains a secret; but there is also a story behind all the people involved in the ongoing dialogue about fossils. As I paint fossils I am discovering that my paintings are about trying to understand people.