Haute couture sculptures fused with steel

East Sooke artist Bev Petow finds her solace in visual metaphors

Bev Petow's Dragon Aunt dress forged from steel will be shown at Abkhazi Gradens throughout the summer.

The sparks will be flying this month in sculpture artist Bev Petow’s East Sooke metalworking studio, as she puts the finishing touches on a set of four life-size steel dresses.  The intriguing garden sculptures will have their public debut at the season opening of the Abkhazi Gardens on April 9.

All this came about when a box of Princess Peggy Abkhazi’s  haute couture cocktail dresses was found in the house when it was finally taken over by the The Land Conservancy.  Now these visual metaphors for Peggy’s life and spirit will be on show throughout the spring and summer.

How did Bev, the woman of steel,  come to take an unforgiving material like metal and develop an expertise in creating steel dresses?

She was introduced to tools and machines in her father’s mechanic shop and was given her love of design and sewing at 12-years-of-age by her mother.

After many years of working in graphic design, Petow went back to art school in mid-life — graduating with honours from Marylhurst University in Portland in 1998 when she picked up the welding torch at the age of 37.

“Steel is my main medium of expression although I have worked with many materials in both 2D, 3D and on computer.

“My process is a balance of construction and deconstruction as I focus on the forces of integration and decay that are constantly co-creating the world,” states Petow on her website (www.bevpetowdesign.com).

The steel dresses?  When a dear friend  of hers from childhood, with whom she had always sewn cloth dresses, passed away from a lingering leukaemia illness she fell into depression. Petow had nursed her to the end.

Devastated by this loss, lethargy set in. Then one morning she heard her friend’s voice declare firmly to her, “Get back out into the studio.”

This snapped her out of her mood and she thought, “Okay, I’m a metalwork artist – what should my next project be?”

She began  designing and fabricating dresses  to be used as garden sculptures, based on the 60s and 70s designs that she and her friend used to make. Their combination of industrial masculinity and delicate femininity were an instant success and have made their way into art galleries and gardens across North America.

“I hand-cut the material using a plasma cutter or a grinder with cutting blade,” she explained. Then she bends, cold hammers and welds pieces into flowing shapes that evoke the human form.  As you can imagine, it is very heavy labour.  She keeps fit with jazzercise three times a week and has a good chiropractor.

The results are intriguing costumes that are mysteriously lacking any bodies inside — even though they may weigh up to 40 pounds.

Rust? A coating of linseed oil helps even out the eventual beauty of weathering.

 

Petow’s work will also be seen at the Sooke Philharmonic Orchestra’s Secret Garden Tour on June 5 and the Stinking Fish Studio  Tour running from July 21-15. The summer tour brochures for the studio tour will be available for download in June. The summer tour map will be up the end of May and will show the locations of the artists’ studios and the list of artists participating (www.stinkingfishstudiotour.com. Petow is showing her work at the Bellevue Art Museum biennial show is September as weil.

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Habitat for Humanity Victoria fundraiser builds momentum

$200K in 100 days fundraiser tops $50,000 in the first month

UPDATED: Traffic flowing normally after morning crash on Douglas Street

Traffic at the Douglas and Finlayson streets intersection was temporarily impacted

New development will pay homage to fallen World War One pilot

1015 Cook St. will become 28 market rental homes with mural

371 British Columbians battling COVID-19, health officials confirm

Thursday (Aug. 6) saw a second straight day of nearly 50 new confirmed cases

RCMP looking for missing teen in Comox Valley

Jenessa Shacter was last seen going for a walk in downtown Courtenay

B.C. wildfire crews have battled 111 blazes in the last seven days

Twenty-nine fires remain active, as of Friday (Aug 7)

‘We don’t make the rules’: Okanagan pub owner says staff harassed over pandemic precautions

‘If you have six people plus a baby, guess what? That’s seven’ - West Kelowna Kelly O’Bryan’s owner

T-Rex earns big bids at B.C. dino auction

Over 500 dino-themed lots sold to buyers from across North America

Remembering Brent Carver: A legend of Broadway who kept his B.C. roots strong

Over the years, the Cranbrook thespian earned his place as one of Canada’s greatest actors

Statistics Canada says country gained 419,000 jobs in July

National unemployment rate was 10.9 per cent in July, down from the 12.3 per cent recorded in June

Canada plans $3.6 billion in retaliatory tariffs on U.S. in aluminium dispute

The new Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement that replaced NAFTA went into force on July 1

Canada ‘profoundly concerned’ over China death sentence for citizen in drug case

Police later confiscated more than 120 kilograms of the drug from Xu Weihong’s home

Most Read