donna fischer | the artist next door | february 2015
Scott Menzel’s bold and unsettled works of art can have a mesmerizing effect. Forms align, then blend and then transform into something else while shimmery light floods in, threatening to erase the entire chaotic scene. Shadowy forms layer in, giving the impression of a ghostly apparition. But it’s the sensation of movement that is most striking about his work. There is an undeniable rush of energy within Menzel’s artwork.
The days of putting oil paint to canvas may be numbered if this is what can be done with skill and software. Menzel is a digital contemporary fine artist and designer. A graduate of St Norbert College in graphic communications, the work he creates involve intensely saturated hues and delicate lines. Some pieces are nature-inspired, while others take a journey through the world of abstract shape and possibility. For Menzel, “painting” digitally means reaching a level of art that leaves traditional styles behind. “I don’t like pictures that are conventional,” Menzel explains. “I used to be in the mindset where I had to be realistic, and I discovered as I got older that it’s more about my vision of it. For me, the end result is what matters. Canvas is great, but it has a flat feeling to it.”
Unhappy with the fragile nature of canvas-based art, Menzel found a process called, “dye-infused metal.” Ink meets paper first, and then bonds with metal, turning into a gas when heat is introduced. A translucent effect is visible on the surface and the artwork is nearly indestructible. He works with a company in California for production of his finished pieces. “I know a lot of photographers use it for their prints. For my art, personally I think it really fits.”
Greater durability was one of the driving factors behind Menzel’s exploration into digital art on metal; another was the freedom he could experience when painting through software. Menzel has Spinal Muscular Atrophy, a condition that leaves him with little mobility beyond his hands. “One of my frustrations was the fact that my arms have limited movement, and I was limited to a very small sized drawing. Now, because I create the work digitally, in theory, there is no limit.” Art has given Menzel a creative outlet, and he credits it with helping him through the trials he faces every day. “It’s something that I have control over. I can dictate the direction of my art. If it wasn’t for art I don’t know where I’d be right now. My art also moves me through life.”
Last year’s Artstreet event in Green Bay brought Menzel an Award of Excellence and a chance to observe people take his art in. “One of my favorite moments was when I was at Artstreet in Green Bay and a lady came up and said that she saw my art and it actually gave her goose bumps,” he explains. “It’s kind of a weird feeling that something that you created could affect someone on an emotional level. To me it’s kind of rewarding. There have been other scenarios. If I’m by my work, and someone else is by me, they don’t connect that I’m the artist because they’re just not used to that (an artist being in a wheel chair).”
A challenge of a different variety lies in the way some establishments view digital art. This emerging art form doesn’t always get to compete with the more common forms. “Some people are traditional, and they don’t see digital art as a true art, like painting with oils,” Menzel says. “In fact I was about to enter a contest, and then when I read the fine print I found out that the art can’t be created with a computer. I know there are some who have a hard time seeing this as a fine art medium, but I’m hoping that I can change that a little bit.”
Menzel notes that early on he worried about being accepted for his work, and not out of sympathy for his disability, but a competition based in Australia in the early 2000s gave him the confidence to move on. “I think that was when I realized that I could maybe do something in the art world.”
Being restricted to an electric wheelchair seems to hold Menzel back only in a logistical sense. If it bothers him, he never acknowledges it. Instead, he expresses hope for what can be accomplished in life. “You need good people, good support, good networking, and you have to push yourself,” he explains. “I know a lot of people out there who struggle, and I think fear is something that holds them back. I hope that I can move other people through something that I’ve created.”
Menzel will have a showing of his work at the Intercontinental Milwaukee Hotel in February and will exhibit his work at Arti Gras at Shopko Hall in Green Bay on March 7 and 8. He’ll no doubt be interested in watching art enthusiasts take in his dynamic creations. “The moment when you see the print finished is the best moment. But, I love seeing people’s reactions.”
To see more of Scott Menzel’s work, go to www.menzelfineart.com.
Donna Fischer is an avid fan of music, film and art, when she's not writing on these subjects you'll find her gardening or snowshoeing around Green Bay.