Listen To The Radio Story:

Oil, ferric oxide on steel; 53 x 47

CBVO: If you are like most modern people, your life goes like this…

[SFX: “race car…vroom!”]

CBVO: …but if you’re like artist A. D. Peters, and live in Amish country in North Eastern Ohio, your life goes like this…

[SFX: “buggy/horse clip-clops”]

CBVO: or like this…

[SFX: “sound of a steel sheet being tossed into the pond”]

CBVO: That’s what it sounds like when a sheet of metal is tossed into Alan’s pond so that it can acquire a nice patina of rust…Alan’s current medium of choice.

CBONTAPE: Alan…where the hell are we?

ADP: uh…where are we? We’re in the middle of Nowhere, Ohio. My wife Annie and I are both artists, and we live on a farm that dates from 1820…

CBVO: …and it’s beautiful, it’s like Monet’s garden at Giverney [NB – CHECK PRONOUNCIATION], and it’s a…

ADP: …sanctuary, it’s a mystical haven here that we’re able to work in. we have a 1700 square foot studio outbuilding, once pigs and chickens and now it’s an art factory. I’m surrounded by a very Winslow Homer type of setting of little kids walking down the street with suspenders and straw hats and horses and buggies and…

CBONTAPE: …so…things go buggy speed here, and you work at the speed of rust?

ADP: exactly.

Oil, ferric oxide on steel; 35x 24

CBVO: But how do you get from painting on canvas to painting on metal?

ADP: My wife was doing sculptural work made of found objects and a lot of sticks and weaving and I was basically a landscape painter… then I was very inspired by what she was doing because she would recruit me to do some of the grunt work…then I was working materials that I had no knowledge of what they did and all of a sudden it was like being back in college again…and you’re working with these sticks and things and the creative doors open up. So I started some landscape things, but instead of traditional canvas I started using recycled aluminum…I have a slate roof on my house. I would use some of the recycled slate to do assemblages with all sorts of objects and photographs…I had some old post cards. and then I discovered some pieces of steel. I’ve always been enamored by rust. There’s just something about the color and the patterns…

CBVO: …but steel is not canvas. This new medium came with its own set of cranky characteristics…like where do you find it?

ADP: I have a friend who’s a metal fabricator. This guy has a big dumpster full of scrap steel, so he let me dumpster dive…had my gloves, like a kid in a candy shop. Except this stuff’s very heavy. So I could only pull out small panels and I’d see the long strips of steel and I’d think, hmmmmm, there’s something can be done with this.

CBONTAPE: Let’s go in the studio...

CBVO: And inside in the doorway between two of the studio’s rooms, hangs Alan’s first, large-sized steel painting…

ADP: I was working on a lot of very small pieces of steel, like I said, that I got out of the dumpster, and all different sizes and shape, would sort of dictate, what I could do because of my limited ability to get materials. And I had some long strips that I didn’t know what to do with. I was invited to be in an environmental art show at Hiram College. We were doing something on the forest, which has always been a favorite subject of mine anyway, so I took these six long strips that I put together and created this forest landscape looking up into the trees. I could see this thing being very kinetic, so I hung it from a board, so it all dangles…

Oil ferric oxide on steel; 6 sections (48 x 21); w/hanger 59 x 34

CBVO:“the slats of steel look like a flattened-out, oversized set of wind chimes. give it a whack…

[SFX: rattling steel strips]

CBVO: …and it sounds like a bass version of an Balinese gamalon or metalophone. it’s a metal forest that [SWAYS] in the breeze…with two kinds of light…the ‘golden hour’, painted-in light that filters thru the rust branches, and the backlit light that cuts thru the slats from behind the doorway in which the painting is hanging. And It’s stunning.

ADP: I liked that subject, so I thought “I want to do that on a solid piece of metal”. I would have to clean the surface where I was going to paint, so I’m not painting directly on the rust. I took it out and threw it in the pond, let it patina out there, and I’d take it in and out during the summer. and I had it on an easel by the studio so I could look at it. Every so often I would go by with the garden hose, spray it down, come back a few days later and it would have a little more rust on the surface. And it was already painted. What I did was I painted the sky around where the trees and the branches and the leaves were and all you could see was the paint at first and then it would start getting deeper and darker. and then we went on vacation and someone house sat for us and I gave them orders to every couple of days…spray down the new work and they did so…and they wanted their signature on it, but I refused. So it probably took about three months for this thing to do what it was doing and I just thought “this is really cool looking.”

Oil, rust on steel on slate; 13 x 9.5

CBVO: Which brings us to The Problem…

ADP: I have a dealer…Garsen Fine Arts in Chelsea, New York. He showed the work at the Affordable Art Fair at the Armory in New York and in the first five minutes it sold. And then somebody else came by and they wanted it, and all of a sudden it was something like, “oh, can you do another one?”

Oil on steel; 47 x 53

CBVO: Allen has joked for years that he’d know when he’d “arrived” when he had a waiting list for his work, which he has now, only not, as I think as he intended.

ADP: Ohhh, yeah….the last one took three months to do, so is there any fast way to do this?

CBVO: He literally can’t make ‘em fast enough…because it takes months for a piece of metal to oxidize, with no guarantee that the result will even be interesting. But there’s a growing demand from collectors for Alan’s work…so…

Oil, ferric oxide on steel; 48x48

CBONTAPE: …how do you speed up rust?

ADP: There are different processes…you can use muratic acid (but) it would corrode the metal so much that it would end up flaking off. And all I’m working with is surface rust…I just want the surface patina…like a Richard Serra steel sculpture with that beautiful finish on it. So they have this very sculptural quality to them.

Of course, when I was trying to duplicate it…it was in the fall, and rust works better in the heat. That’s why you don’t want to keep your car in a heated garage, because it’ll rust faster. I was getting cool weather, and I couldn’t get this stuff to rust and I’m panicing, thinking I wanna crank these things out. Then I just sort of gave up…ya know?, they’ll get done when they’ll get done. The work is gonna dictate to me when it will be completed.

CBVO: So…what’s on the easel now?

ADP: This is a new piece that I started probably in June. I wanted to see what they’d look like large. The piece is 48 by 48, and it seems like the bigger they get, the nicer they get.

CBVO: But how to you deal with the weight issue?

ADP: Unless I start doing diptychs or something, they will start to get heavy…

CBONTAPE: You need good walls for these…

ADP: Well…

CBONTAPE: …reasonable walls.

ADP: …reasonable walls, but they’re not that heavy. Huge canvases are as heavy as this. They are really actually pretty light. I put some screws right thru the surface…hangers are bolted on the back. You really don’t see the screws…it’s a piece of steel…so if there are screws in the front…

CBONTAPE: …it goes with the territory

ADP: Yeah…they’re rusted pieces of steel with paint on them that look like trees.

CBONTAPE: …and that’s what I’m lookin’ at now. It’s a forest scene…kinda lookin’ up again?

ADP: Yeah…trying to pick up the sky. I work from a lot of photographs i go out and take of the evening…high contrast… …later when the sun is coming down and it changes the angle of the prisms in the atmosphere, so you get these reds and lots of yellows…the colors work well with the rust.

Oil, ferric oxide on steel; 48 x 35

CBVO: And if you want rust, you need water…so it’s down to the pond.

CBONTAPE: oh…there ya go…there’s a piece…

ADP: …sitting on the edge here. I’ve been working on big pieces, so I have some medium-sized pieces…these are 24 by 13.

This is a full-tilt, living pond with fish, snails, and turtles…and now there’s a cat walking across the piece of steel…so we’ll have cat paws…maybe that’s something cool. Anyway, the program here is to check them over…

ADP: They had been somewhere where they were face-to-face…I like the patterns on them, but now I just turned them over and one is for some reason more rusted…maybe that was on the outside. When I put it in the pond it got a little dirty, so I’m gonna rinse it off…

I had liked this surface, but I’m almost liking this surface better…it looks topographical

CBONTAPE: it looks like a satellite photo…a Landsat photo of a desert area.

ADP: Yeah…and here’s the ocean out here. When you put the water on it…this is as close as I can get to understanding what it’s gonna look like when it’s finished.

CBVO: But is it ever finished? rust is an ongoing process….and who wants a painting that can potentially self-destruct?”

ADP: To preserve it, I put varnish on it…I use an alkoid resin. And then I discovered – from doing my homework on outdoor sculptures that have rust on them – I use this Butcher’s Bowling Alley wax. That really is hard…again, they use it to preserve steel sculptures, so why not preserve steel paintings.

Oil, ferric oxide on steel; 48x48

CBVO: This idea of preservation and fighting decay had resonance for me, and possibly explains the success Alan has had with his rust paintings. As an aging baby boomer, I’m seeing my “demographic” become Generation E – The Entropy Generation. We are slowly & collectively realizing that we are on the downside slope of the aging cycle’s bell-shaped curve…and with this decline comes our own “rusting”.

We are also a clever & stubborn bunch - some of us try to beat the clock with botox and plastic surgery, while others get our heads right by embracing and celebrating life’s eventualities. One way or another, we are dealing with an unavoidable reality…so it seems logical that we’d be attracted to Alan’s unique style of realistic art…

ADP: I tell my friends who do realistic paintings, that I do realistic paintings with a garden hose.

CBVO: …physical representations of an age group’s desire to slow things down…to buggy speed…or…

[AUDIO/MUSIC CUE: The Who’s My Generation starts out in actual speed for two bars, then very audibly slows down until it sounds like a 45 being played at 33 1/3rd.]

CBVO: …to the speed of rust.


for XXXX, I’m Chris Butler.”

Oil, rust, varnish on steel; 5" x 11"

Oil, ferric oxide on steel; 58" X 9 5/8"

All art works Copyright 2008 A. D. Peters

A. D. Peters' WEBSITE

All text 2008 Chris Butler