Molding Metal into Art

By Becca Robbins in A&E

Two Clark welding students hosted an exhibit in the Above and Below Art Studio for the “First Friday” gallery tour in downtown Vancouver on May 1.

Local artists gather on the first friday of every month to showcase their current art.

Jeff Grimes' Artwork

Dean Popek, 68, and Jeff Grimes, 54, were featured in one of the 19 galleries along with painter Tom Relth. Popek has four sculptures and Grimes has three that were created at Clark.

Above and Below Art Studio advertises to emerging and uncontracted artists. Popek said that the studio was a great fit for him since he can gain experience and add to his resume while still in school.

“I’ve always had pen and pencil in hand, ever since I can remember,” Popek said. He still has his first drawing in a closet somewhere.

He worked as a graphic artist and illustrator and decided to pursue art upon his retirement.

Popek is in his fourth quarter of the welding program led by sculpting professor Beth Heron.

IMG_0117He came to Clark to  brush up on his skills and has found particular interest in welding and sculpting.

“Everyone paints, I wanted to be a little different,” Popek said.

After Popek’s time at Clark he plans to take his art to Portland.

“I consider myself a green artist. I like to use things that most people would probably throw away,” Popek said. He is inspired by New York artists of the ‘60s.

Grimes said that his creativity comes from his architect father, who had him drawing since he was young. “I’m used to building things that people use, so to be forced by my art professor to create something abstract is really hard for me.”

Dean Popek's Artwork

Grimes does not like to title his work because he thinks it means something different to everyone who sees it.

“This is my first try at sculpting, and it seems to be going good,” Grimes said with a laugh.

He is attending Clark for a welding degree, but he said his art started out as just finishing assignments.

Popek said that Heron encourages him to always improve. For Grimes, she helped him think differently than the practical, construction-minded man he was.

Grimes hopes to continue showing his art at First Friday each month and eventually open his own studio.

This month’s First Friday featured 19 studios across downtown. Above and Below Art Studio is located at 104-B W. Evergreen Blvd. Vancouver, WA 98660.

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