Beck finds following in folk art

Published 8:57 pm Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Even those who don’t really appreciate art will find favor in the work of folk artist Chris Beck.

And, if you don’t believe it, just take a gander at what’s hanging at the Johnson Center for the Arts in Troy.

The Chris Beck art exhibition opens today at the arts center and features 17 of Beck’s metal sculptures. It’s an exhibit that everyone will find fascinating, said Wiley White, Johnson Center development director.

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The young artist with strong Troy ties makes art from metal that is scavenged from roadsides and from dilapidated or collapsed buildings. And, from these bent, beaten and rusted materials, Beck makes clothes and flowers and butterflies.

“I think its cool that you can make flowers and bumble bees and lady bugs out of metal, but they’re still light and airy,” Beck said. “My stuff’s not polished. It’s rusty and the rustier the better. Even though it’s rusty metal, it’s pretty. It’s easy to look at.”

Beck is relatively new to the world of professional art. Although he was already selling his artwork at arts shows, it wasn’t until the housing market took a nosedive that Beck decided to enter the world of professional art.

Beck had been working as a carpenter renovating historic homes in Chattanooga, Tenn., when the crash came.

“That was the only kind of work I had ever done so I decided that my only choice was to try art full time,” he said. “When you feel like your choices have become nil and void, you are left with God. My wife and I believed that God was leading us in this direction.”

Whether Beck had any idea that God had placed him on the fast track to success as an artist, he didn’t say. He was just confident that he was “on track” with his art.

In a short time, Beck has made a name for himself as a folk artist who works in metal.

His “free standing” clothing sculptures have become his trademark.”

“The work that Chris does is just incredible,” White said.

“He takes rusty metal and turns it into something beautiful and amazing. The clothing that Chris ‘fabricates’ looks exactly like fabric. A lady was viewing his work and thought that the dress was fabric until she touched it. She couldn’t believe that it was metal.”

White said Beck’s ability to take something as harsh as metal and turn it into a ruffle, a flowing sash or a silk tie takes a special kind of talent, creativity and imagination.

“Chris often paints a background and then assembles clothing onto it,” she said. “The metal lady’s business suit is similar to the one in the accompanying ad for an IBM electric typewriter. His work is like nothing that I’ve seen before.”

But Beck’s work is not limited to the fashion world.

He also creates butterflies, flowers, bug and other critters from metal.

His wall sculptures are often mounted on boards from old bridges and barns, some that were built in the late 1800s but have fallen into decay.

Beck sometimes uses nails and scrap metal parts to make a whole.

Behind each piece that Beck creates, there’s a story and he is more than willing to share the story, which makes his artwork personal.