As fans of pop culture we gravitate towards certain genres for specific reasons...whether they be personal to our lives and our upbringings or something just sort of grabs us for no apparent reason. Here we sit in 2016 and many of us have grown up around certain TV "stars" and have had the feeling of being "let in" to their lives...sometimes via their character they portray and sometimes because certain celebrities sort of open doors to their personal lives so their fans can see that they too are human beings. Tony Dow, TV's Wally Cleaver, is just one of those cases.
By now fans of the great Tony Dow have learned a lot about where he came from, what inspired him to make the decisions he made and the road he traveled to get there. It really is a beautiful story stretching back over half of a century to where it all began for Tony. Who would have though that swimming would lead to Hollywood Stardom, right? Well, in this piece we are fast forwarding past all of the amazing accomplishments that Tony ventured through around the camera and looking at his life after Hollywood...he turned the page and jumped in to the deep end of a brilliant sculpting career. Yes, you've already learned a bit about his sculpting endeavors but let's highlight some amazing high points in his sculptural world...
Decades ago Tony and his wife Lauren moved to the scenic Topanga Ca., and created a paradise to call home. A paradise that may even be called an artist retreat...Tony has set up shop at his residence in Topanga and creates his beautiful sculptures right in his own backyard. Another cool thing of note is that most of the burl wood that Tony uses for his work comes from his "neck of the woods". He loves scouting the woods looking for the perfect pieces of wood to carve into the next masterpiece. Topanga is known for its scenic beauty and miles and miles of wooded wonderland. So Tony has a field day when it comes to collecting material! A beautiful hike and "shopping" mother nature for his medium...pretty good!
"There's a lot of remnants of wood things, trees and whatnot; I tend to find burly kinds of pieces, roots and things, and bring them home," Tony explains, "Some of the prettiest pieces seem to come from burned wood, there's a little bit of that blackness left in -- it has a warmth to it."
So have you heard the story about Tony's "unofficial" kick off to his sculpting career? Are you familiar with the Louvre in Paris? This isn't some local gallery on a street corner. This is the real deal! Tony’s talent in the area of modern sculpture was confirmed when one of his bronzes was chosen for exhibition at the Salon 2008 de la National des Beaux Arts in Paris. He was one of only two U.S. sculptors selected to exhibit at this annual juried show at the Carrousel du Louvre... So what does Tony have to say about this piece, "Unarmed Warrior"?? Take a look: "I always think of it as a female figure, but it could be a male or female figure. It represents the struggle against ... uh ... stuff. There happens to be kind of a gash across the front of it, which might have a little sort of breast cancer thing to it, and the shield is the way of protecting it." But, Dow says, the form remains open to interpretation.
Tony got his Louvre premiere as a result of appearing on KTLA’s Morning News Show in Los Angeles. The LA Times explains what happened next.
“Dow was a guest on the morning news program with Jerry Mathers, who played the Beav from 1957 to 1963. So was art gallerist Robert Berger, co-owner with Karen Lynne Asher of Karen Lynne Galleries, Inc., with locations in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles and Boca Raton, Fla. Berger was on hand to talk about the gallery's participation in the Societe Nationale des Beaux-Arts exhibition at the famed Paris museum. …. Dow and Berger got to talking, and Berger discovered that, along with his Hollywood fame, Dow was an artist and had been sculpting and painting since his teen years. “
Tony: "I think my pieces have a lot of movement, and the movement is one of the things that are appealing, I don’t like to get too detailed because I think it takes away from the spontaneity of the piece.”
Tony has certainly carved out a standing for himself in the realm of fine arts as a first-rate sculptor. His reputation is based upon his creation of wood, bronze, and mixed-media sculptures. It’s an identity that he has seemingly been groomed for his entire life. He grew up in a home where creativity surrounded and inspired him. His father was a master building designer who had built multiple homes for people who were part of the film industry. Among the notables that Tony’s dad constructed homes for were legendary directors George Stevens and Billy Wilder. His mom was also an entrepreneur with an artistic background. She had a gourd business and made arrangements for New York City’s prestigious department store Bloomingdale’s. Later in her life, she launched the Belmont Shore Art Center, which sold supplies and had art classes.
Tony acknowledges that he is “fortunate that I don’t have to view my sculpting as a job or a career. It’s driven by inspiration and a need to be creative. My wife, Lauren, says that sculpting is my passion, my form of meditation.” Lauren, is an artist in herself, and the two have worked together on several projects over the years. Dow is understandably proud of his wife’s accomplishments: “She is an artist in everything she does and creates wonderful embeddings (mosaics) that in many cases I build the foundations for. We recently collaborated on a couple of assemblages for a local studio tour and show.”
Dow’s sculptures resonate with him on different levels. Some end their “lives” in their wooden state; others are given a new identity and are cast in bronze: “There are a couple of factors that determine which pieces I will take to the foundry. Firstly, I have to like the piece more than others because it costs around $1,500 to get the mold, the wax, and then the first bronze poured. Secondly, some of the wood pieces are too complex or would be destroyed in the mold-making process. Sometimes a piece ends up in a gallery and is sold before I make a decision on whether to take it further. Or else I just feel it looks better with the amazing woodgrain finish.”
So let's take a look at some finished products. Primarily Tony works with wood and bronze but has not limited himself to just these two mediums. He has done several "mixed media" pieces which include "re-purping" recycled materials...breathing new life into what was once discarded.
Looking at some of his mixed media pieces you will start to get a glimpse into the array of creativity that goes into each and every piece. Dow insists, that like most art, his work is always open to interpretation...that is the beautiful thing about visual art in general...the viewer can take away from it what they please and build their own idealism around what they are viewing. Sometimes "art" is pretty straight forward when dealing with relistic sculptures and paintings...but when you start to "abstract" reality, skew perception, the fun really begins!
Even when we see a beautifully casted bronze piece from Tony we need to remember that it all started with a piece of wood that he found in the hills of Topanga canyon...each bronze piece starts with a carefully hand carved wood based. Then the magic of casting begins...
~So we end this piece on Tony's sculptural work where it all began for him...with a hunk of burl wood. Tony likes to joke how he started by carving wood with a simple chisel and some sand paper...then he started adding all sorts of fancy equipment and things got more "complicated" as he likes to say! Whatever the case, we grew up watching our beloved Wally Cleaver on the hit show Leave it to Beaver...and now it is pretty spectacular to see an amazing visual arts career blossom out of Tony Dow's passion towards creativity! You can view Tony's available work and sign up for exhibition info at: www.silverscreenartists.com