donna fischer | the artist next door | july 2016
Scott Menzel's abstract works of art are like a high-speed train for the mind. Whether completely abstract or only semi-abstract, his subjects always lure the eye in with dazzling and dancing light, many layers and remarkable images. This St. Norbert College graduate creates his work with a computer and then relies on another form of technology to bring his art to life. The dye-infused metal process is still Menzel's preference for his artwork and indeed it does command attention in person. The fiery colors of fall nearly sing in one work that features an eagle in flight, while another, more abstract work delicately shimmers with its stunning finish.
One work in particular even gives some insight to Menzel's perspective. It depicts a tarantula spider. Each leg of the impressive arachnid features feather-light hairs and the surrounding colors and lines complete the mesmerizing effect. For Menzel, it's an image meant to change minds. “People tend to fear you when you're different,” he explains. “Once you get to know the creature, it becomes more fascinating. I guess I have a personal connection with that one.”
Lately, Menzel says his workdays are divided up with half going toward commissioned work and the other half for his own self-expression. “I love having free reign so that I can work at a more abstract level,” he says. When pressed to describe the artistic process, he hesitates because it can be hard for an artist to pin down where ideas come from. “Sometimes my ideas just come about and I get the urge to create it. When I create, I want energy to be in my work regardless of whether it is abstract or a nature piece. I guess it comes from the fact that I want art to have some sense of surrealism or emotion. I like having depth and interesting colors and tend to use fluid movement in my drawing method. I build up my drawings through layers and like to sometimes exaggerate or accentuate nature's secrets that I see. Sometimes I wonder if the fluidity is due to my love of the water and ocean life and it subconsciously comes out through my work.”
And then some ideas just come from freely from his fans. “I usually get suggestions from people at art fairs. They ask if I've ever tried something and I'll say, 'Nope, but I'll put that on my list.'”
Art shows are an important opportunity for artists to connect with people and build their customer base. For Menzel, who has Spinal Muscular Atrophy and must remain in an electric wheelchair, the process becomes a much more daunting logistical exercise. “It's really enjoyable, but it's also a lot of work. When you enjoy something, even though it's a lot of work, it doesn't seem like it. My favorite part is interacting with people. And for me, that's my reward — getting people to stop by and check out my work. Because of my condition, it requires a lot of planning to get people together to help set up for the shows. When you're planning it you need back-ups for back-ups in case one person can't make it.” Menzel's family has been a major form of support for him, in particular his mother, who is generally assisting with sales in his booth. “She's been a very big help and for that I'm very grateful.”
His motto, “Movement through art” explains why many of his works may appear to evoke energy. “I think it happens naturally when I create. I think subconsciously there's something in me that wants to reproduce the energy that I feel. I look at it as an enhanced vision of reality. I like doing more of the abstract, but I don't mind taking something normal and making it slightly abstract. Like my nature pictures, I tend to make them a little bit abstract just so they're not the typical animal. As far as my personal taste, I like the expressiveness of abstract. To me it's like a poem; it's metaphorical.”
Abstract art is wonderfully open to interpretation and that's something Menzel thrives on. “People can get different impressions of it when they see it. I'm sort of a nerd; I really enjoy science. I drew this picture based off of String Theory and I had this idea that it could be like a harp, but every time people see it they tell me it looks like a fox.”
For Menzel, the opportunity to find self-expression through art is immensely satisfying. He is not one to look for extra attention due to his disability, but he does readily admit how much his art helps him get past life in the wheelchair. But for some, works this dazzling don't seem like they should come from someone like Menzel. “I get that quite a bit. Sometimes they think that my mom is helping me; they think she's the artist. People don't really understand the potential you can have when you have disabilities. Yeah, that really does happen quite often where people are surprised.”
Menzel says he's aiming to get his art into more industrial settings in the future, as well as bigger cities. His works can be seen at places such as Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay and at Theda Care in Shawano. This summer he will be at Art at the Park in Appleton on July 17, the 42nd Annual Arts Festival and Beer Garden at the Bergstrom-Mahler Glass Museum in Neenah on July 31 and at Artstreet in Green Bay on August 26 - 28. Learn more about this fearless artist ator at Facebook/ScottMenzel.
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.