<em>The Duke</em>.
The Duke.

Metal sculptor Chris Beck has a way of turning the beat-up into the beautiful by taking a torch to his art.

Metal sculptor Chris Beck has a way of turning the beat-up into the beautiful. A “collector of things trashed,” Beck looks to artists like Charlie Lucas, Lonnie Holley, and R. Michael Wimmer in his own take on reviving discarded things to make something powerful and new. Using found materials such as used car parts, chicken coop metal, barn roofs, latches (anything old, rusty, and hard to find), he creates handmade metal clothes, ball caps, birds, Native American headdresses, waitress aprons, and other everyday items that take on new dimensions when made in metal.

Beck learned to weld in 2006 and quickly turned the torch to art. He doesn’t use patterns, forms, or plans; rather, he says, he “sees” the object in his mind, dismantles it piece by piece, and then makes it in reverse with his hands. But his aren’t the only hands involved — he also feels God has a hand in every piece he creates. For Beck, the desire and ability to be expressive is a God-given gift — one that can almost overwhelm. “I am constantly thinking about ideas. Constantly. I do make lists of ideas and keep a running tab of all that I want to make in the spare time I do not have.”

He’s not exaggerating about not having enough time. Each of Beck’s pieces takes 20 to 120 hours to make. A metal dress or a pair of sculpted jeans can take 40 to 60 hours. The biplane that looks as though it is flying right out of the wall, which he made on commission for a pilot, took 200 hours.

When he’s not working on his pieces, Beck is traveling regularly to art shows, where his art never fails to attract crowds and new fans. And he’s mentally plotting out a larger body of work for a museum or corporate installation, where you can be sure denim overalls never looked so fit for hanging on a wall.

Chris Beck is represented by the following galleries: Marion Harris, New York; The Shop, New Orleans; The Copper Fox, Franklin, Tennessee; Ginger Young, Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Winder Binder, Chattanooga, Tennessee.

From the October 2013 issue.