Jeff Rogers, otherwise known as Metal Jeff, recently created Forgotten Oracles, a series of paintings largely inspired by mythology and outer space.
Rogers has been working on this concept since the beginning of the year and added a specific direction to his idea after finding out he’d have a show at the Holland Project.
He’s an oil painter and a nature lover, and he said that he’s always gravitated toward working on wood boards. Recently, he’s been creating muse-like figures, oracles, on starry backgrounds.
“It seemed like a fun way to tweak the idea of mythology and create my own in a weird way,” Rogers said.
Even though he uses images of human bodies as oracles, he uses non-human heads—bizarre ram heads, mythical two-headed birds, clouds of smoke, and thorns branching out of skulls—in order to abstract his figures and to step away from human vanity.
“With mythology and religion, people—while wanting to seek out answers of things they don’t understand and creating these ideas and deities of other beings—often make them look like us,” he said.
Rogers begins by brainstorming a concept, photographing models and sketching—and for his large-scale pieces, it takes some extra planning.
“I don’t have the kind of mind where, on a large scale, I can just lay something out perfectly proportioned like that,” he said. “It blows my mind, and I’m not that person. I’m not too ashamed to use a projector to line something out.”
From there, he incorporates a black and gold color scheme with a water-based stain to allow the grain to show through and make the wood a little less flat. He said that, for this series, the process usually flowed in a way where he’d end each painting by adding the gold leaf and stars.
Rogers works on his paintings at Cuddleworks, a local artist collective.
“Once I get working on something it’s kind of a zone,” he said. “Even if I have food or drink, I tend to forget about it when I’m working. I just get locked into that.”
He also needs music in the background in order to work.
“More often than not, it’s something more chill, atmospheric, instrumental or ambient,” he said. “My favorite band is Ulver. They’re from Norway. Originally they were this black metal band from the ’90—true Norwegian metal. But after their third album they took a hard left turn, and it’s been all over the place. It’s very experimental, very soundscape or even some electronic. Then there’s a lot of post-rock I listen to,” Jeff said. (Rogers’ nickname, “Metal Jeff,” comes from his role as a photographer in Reno’s heavy metal scene, by the way.)
He listens to hip-hop, too, and his musical choices are echoed in the chill feeling he evokes in his moon-and-stars paintings.
According to Rogers, people who saw his work last year—whether his gallery pieces, metal show posters or his images for RN&R’s Best Of Northern Nevada issue in 2016—will notice a difference this year.
“What I wanted to create was something that was a little weird but beautiful in its own right,” he said.