Selective Focus: Midnight Oil

The work from Allison & Jonathan Metzger – aka Midnight Oil Studio – has been popping up around the area at galleries and art fairs. They even do live screen printing demos. Here they talk about how they got into screen printing and where they hope to take the medium and their business.

M. O.: We make fine art, original silk-screen prints on paper; our imagery is based on Midwestern landscapes, Nature, retro-and contemporary Pop-Culture, and American Inventions. We have a lot of fun with our pieces and enjoy making work that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

We both earned our Master’s degrees in Fine Art from the University of Kansas in Lawrence, KS – Jonathan in Printmaking and Allison in Textiles – so the silk-screen technique is a fantastic crossover between the two disciplines. Also, creating silk-screen prints does not require much more than a spare room, a darkroom, and a little know-how, whereas other printmaking techniques often require large, expensive and HEAVY equipment. The silk-screen process took a little getting use to, but we really enjoy the challenges it brings.

Midwestern Sunrise, 16”x20”, 2017

We are drawn to the clean, graphic style of silk-screen imagery, and we love pushing the envelope of what is possible within the technique. Most people are familiar with silk-screen prints as a one or two layer tee-shirt decoration, or as simple gig posters, but we create fine art images with up to 15 layers and complex imagery-all hand drafted, and then hand-printed. All of our works are printed in limited edition runs.

We also love how printmaking, in general, allows art to be more accessible and democratic to people of all financial backgrounds. When an artist is only creating one original piece, (eg. an oil painting or a sculpture), the price they must charge for an original piece in order to be sustainable is often prohibitive for most people to afford it. With silk-screen prints and other printmaking techniques, however, the artist creates an edition of multiple originals, allowing the price of each individual piece to be much more affordable for the general public. We believe that everyone-regardless of income-deserves to have beautiful, fine art in their lives; by using the silk-screen process, we can make that happen!

Set Phasers to Stun, 8”x10”, 2016

We have been formally working as silkscreen artists for about 3 years, but we both experimented with the technique throughout graduate and undergraduate school. We are still learning new things everyday!

Lunar Light, 12”x16, 2016

We are constantly improving and learning with each edition we create, and we are also learning one another’s strengths and using that to our advantage. When we first started, we were hesitant to explore transparent bases and blending colors, that is something we use now in our work on a regular basis. We also split some of the tasks within our studio practice. For example, Allison is the color theory master, and Jonathan’s impressive forearms are required for printing the large color flats!

Hyalophora Cecropia, 16”x20”, 2017

Right now, we are also working day jobs while we are getting the business off the ground, which means we really are burning the Midnight Oil regularly. The challenge of finding the time to research, draft, and print new pieces is one we are constantly working on, but the rewards are great: we are working on our dream of being self-sustaining artists, getting to travel the country to attend art fairs, and bringing beautiful and affordable art to people of all ages.

Hartley Pond, Silk-Screen, 12”x16”, 2017

We regularly are having shows at various cafés in Duluth, MN and we have work in the Lakeside Gallery (owned by Aaron Kloss), The Northern Prints Gallery (owned by Cecelia Lieder)-both in Duluth, and Ron’s World Rocks (owned by Ron Piercy in Grand Marais, MN). We also have work in a shop in Lawrence, KS called The Wonder Fair (owned by Meredith Moore). If anyone knows of a place that would like to carrying our work, please let us know, we are always looking for more places to exhibit or sell our work!

You can find our work online at midnightoilstudioworkshop.com, follow us on Instagram @midnightoilstudio, or contact us with questions at info @ midnightoilstudioworkshop.com.

Upcoming Exhibits:
We are participating in a number of art fairs throughout the Midwest this summer:
Grand Marais Arts Festival July 8-9 9am-5pm
Sidewalk Days Downtown Duluth July 12 11am-5pm
IDS X Games Maker Market in Minneapolis, MN July 14-15, 11am-6pm
Ely Blueberry Arts Festival July 28-30
Lake Superior Art Festival at Brighton Beach, Duluth, MN August 12 9am-5pm

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