For a long time, Timm Mettler wanted to be a veterinarian. He was an animal lover who kept a menagerie of pets. As a student in the art magnet program at Gibbs High School – the Pinellas County Center for the Arts – he discovered his talent and passion for creating, and as he dove headfirst into his art, the vet thing fell through.

“When I moved to New York,” says Mettler, “I brought a lot of plants from Florida and treated them like very slow pets. As someone who had to move around a lot, my love for animals would be too heavy for this particular city.

“That being said, I’ve been a new dad for five months. So the caring aspect of who I am ended up being a dad.

Happily nestled with his wife and new daughter in the Big Apple, this St. Petersburg native works as a “registrar” (sort of jack-of-all-trades) at a hip NoHo gallery that represents modernist and contemporary Indian and Pakistani artists and has many museum and gallery clients around the world.

Mettler is a painter, photographer and creator of assemblage works, in the tradition of pioneers Joseph Cornell and Robert Rauschenberg.

Stabilimentum, which opens Friday at [email protected], is an exhibition of these pieces, which Mettler describes as a “cornelian box”. They are essentially wooden frames, with a painting in the back and a canvas-like 3D creation using leftovers and found objects criss-crossing the frame in the foreground.

(A stabilimentum is an ornate construction erected by certain species of spiders, usually at the very center of the web. Its actual function in nature is debated; the concept, however, spoke to Mettler.)

“All of these works, almost all of the ones you will see in this exhibition, come from shipwrecked people,” explains the artist. “They all came by chance, or trying to scavenge materials I found around me, especially at my job.”

Often, work at Aicon includes cleaning, stretching and cutting canvases, as well as packing fragile artwork for shipment somewhere in the world. Sometimes the detritus of these activities – “unloved or discarded or discarded objects, things, materials” – find their way into his own highly original work.

In 2006, he started volunteering at [email protected], and had his first solo exhibition (Series of changing landscapes) on site the following year. He was appointed artistic associate/program manager between 2008 and 2010.

Life paths of differing goals and outlooks took him to New York and Chicago, and eventually Mettler returned home to earn his BA in Fine Arts from Eckerd College.

He has lived in New York since 2013 and has been making art in his own way ever since. “I’ll work on anything that has to do with making a work of art,” he says. “Whatever my definition of art.”

He is, he adds, a buyer of found objects. “One of my teachers at Gibbs taught me how to stretch a canvas. I consider this something I can always do quickly as a readymade; all I need is some wood and some cloth. It could be an old shirt and sticks for wood. You can lay a skin over any bone, that’s what I’m trying to say.

At the end of his daily shift at Aicon, before riding his bike home (“I ride my bike everywhere in New York”), he will take 20 minutes to work on his own stuff.

“I’ll take a roller, once I’m done painting the walls for the gallery change, and I’ll just roll it over this thing,” Mettler says. “Just so I can get paint.”

In the back room of 620, Mettler presents a second exhibition, A Little Thing But Mine – Titles from a painting by Howard Hodgkin, 25 small canvases of works by people he loves and who have been influenced. “I’m a champion of small works,” he explains, “and the intimacy that comes with big things.

Until December 19, Stabilimentum is a portrait by Timm Mettler, 2022. “I dread the waste, I guess that’s one way of looking at it,” he says. “Or I see lost potential and it makes me very tearful. And I have to save it. Kind of like saving a cat from a tree.

All the details are here.

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