You probably know me as president of Stevenson Company. What you may not know is that I paint on scraps of steel. “Men of Metal” is my first art exhibit and I was delighted so many of you could be among the first to see it at the VIP reception.
On the first Friday of each month Haven Arts, a local gallery, throws open its doors to the public. This weekend happened to debut my homage to the people who work at Stevenson Company. Each piece showcases a craftsman in the sheet metal trade. Silhouettes were laid out and cut using a plasma torch, then detailed using oil paint.
The backgrounds are modified photos taken by industrial photographer Erin Hatton. Finally, the pieces were assembled to fit in and around hand-fashioned 24" x 36" stainless steel frames made by members of the Stevenson crew.
“Portrait of Bruce” depicts our architectural expert on the roof of the Kansas Statehouse, where he weathered eight years replacing the signature copper roof. Bruce has spent much of his career adorning the best-looking buildings in Topeka, and our capitol is the crown jewel of those efforts. Bruce has recently been restoring the marquee at the Historic Jayhawk Theater downtown. Like a fine patina, Bruce just gets better with age.
How can you resist this smile? “Portrait of Tegan” features America’s favorite hero, Sergeant Robinson, on another chipper day at work. Here is the journeyman chopping up some steel, maybe posing, maybe cheesing…or maybe he’s just always that way. The lights shine brighter when Tegan’s in the shop, that’s for sure.
“Portrait of Max” spotlights our ageless friend crafting his own piece of art, another Spiral Chute. Over the past forty years, Max has fabricated hundreds of these stainless steel slides, which are used to gently convey fragile product. Max sits in front of his workbench, a calendar checking off the days, and a map of the United States. On it, he pins the twenty- five snack factories where he has visited and installed his masterpieces.
“Portrait of Ethan” was on a short deadline. This jokester took about a week and a half. He’s a little smaller so I could pop him in the oven to dry between layers (he’s steel so I can do that). Even in a crunch and cobbled together from various photographs, our forever-apprentice turned out charming. He stands to the side a little to show off his current project, proudly displayed on his work bench.
I don’t put symbols in my art, but I hope what shines through is my appreciation and admiration for these fellows. The paintings were on display at Haven Arts, 837 1/2 N Kansas Ave, Topeka, KS, in March 2017.