GREENVILLE — Artist Natalie Wetzel said she always felt like an alien growing up, but she’s stepped out onto Planet Earth to find that it might very well be her world after all.
Wetzel was born to Greenville natives Dennis Wetzel and Rose Mary Goodpaster, their second child after daughter Elizabeth.
“I felt like an alien from birth, lucky to be daughter to two very supportive, highly skilled and hard working parents,” Wetzel said.
Creativity was encouraged in her childhood, so she embraced her opportunities with all artistic outlets from sewing, to drawing, to welding, to woodworking, describing her childhood surroundings as a “17-acre country playground.”
Entering the structure of school presented new challenges to her, though.
“Public schooling was a challenge, not academically (I crave knowledge), but socially,” she said. “For all of you awkward youths in Darke County (and beyond), I empathize. However, I was able to find my ground as artistic director of elaborate parties and decorating efforts for school events. I loved researching project related details obsessively for themes that peaked my interest, including the roaring 20s and the Beatles, and then fabricating elements to transform environments interpreting those themes.”
Wetzel said that her love of researching began at that time and it continues to be an integral part of her creative process. Her current artistic work has her delving into research including theoretical physics and biological psychiatry.
Wetzel earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Columbus College of Art and Design in 2003 and her master’s degree in Sculpture from New Mexico State University in 2006. She began teaching college during graduate school, and from there went on to teaching positions throughout the country. She currently serves as assistant professor of Interdisciplinary Sculpture at Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
“KCAD hired me to offer a wide approach to sculpture, including traditional processes, including stone carving and welding, paired with performance, video, sound, and collaboration,” she said. “I believe it is paramount to practice what one teaches, so I’m inclined to share how, through my own life, I live art and work toward positively impacting our global community.”
Her latest project is an international tour titled “EXTREMOPHILIA,” and she has been invited as a part of it to present a lecture titled, “Performing Transdisciplinary Culture,” at the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark, about her global and collaborative-based creative practice.
“I will give this lecture as my Glowworm tour persona, the costume for which I’ve sculpted by bending and welding steel and covering that frame with stretched and sewn fiber optic fabrics,” she said.
Wetzel said she doesn’t ever remembering even considering a life path other than art, and one of her biggest challenges has been having so many ideas and projects in her head that she could not possibly ever create them all.
She said she was briefly diagnosed as psychotic before another doctor she went to for a second opinion took a look at her websites and activities and realized what she was saying was “literal and true.”
“I have been a professor, exhibiting artist, model, curator, magazine editor, and I do travel the globe as a fantastical Glowworm (Frog, Unicorn, etc.) from space and collaborate with top minds in physics,” she said. “This is my life, doc, what can I say?”
Time itself is one of her favorite research topics, which she attributes to her father’s “Popular Science” magazines and Stephen Hawking’s book, “A Brief History of Time,” which were around for her to read as a youngster.
The function of the mind is another interest, inspired partly by her mother’s recent surgery for a brain metastasis.
“In addition to my overwhelming gratitude toward neurosurgeons, Dr. Warnick and Dr. Jeong at UC Medical Hospital, for helping my mother, I have been thrilled to ask them questions about brain function,” Wetzel said. “The plasticity of brain function is an enormous interest of mine. The formation of perception in general is fascinating to me, including such topics as the foundations of social constructs and the illogical and accepted normal. My perception has been informed by studying waves of theory related to the idea the personal is political. Listen to political speeches capitalizing on the most personal of the human condition and try to deny that truism.”
In addition to her professorship, she operates an art studio in collaboration with visual artist and photographer Mark Andrus. Her studio, aptly, is called The Moon, and encompasses an “old barn meets outer space aesthetic.”
There is a Kickstarter campaign, which can be seen at http://kck.st/22CtZNx, to support The Moon mission to host visual artists, musicians, scientists and more “to facilitate global creative projects.”
“We need financial support from those who believe in navigating innovative approaches to education and community development,” Wetzel said. “We’ve discussed how much fun it could be to do one of our Moon events at Memorial Hall here in Greenville. With live music by internationally touring bands we work with, costumes created in collaboration with artists and students of the community, a light show by our Grand Rapids Public Planetarium collaborator, Emily Hromi. Any amount helps, and we have a long list of perks if you donate.”
July 2 marks the beginning of The Moon’s EXTREMOPHILIA Tour, uniting music, visual art, performance, video, physics, chemistry and travel. Part of her tour wardrobe includes designs by Greenville native Tessa Clark.
For more information, visit The Moon’s website at themoongr.com.