Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY

November 8, 2011

Lucas man turns trash into art

Glasgow Daily Times

GLASGOW — Chris Radus doesn’t drive his pickup to work every day, but when he does it’s not uncommon for folks to put scrap metal in its bed they think he might use.

Radus, of Lucas, is a 3-D artist who turns junk into works of art.

It is people who are familiar with his artwork who leave him such things as pipe, sheet metal and springs in the bed of his truck.

“I get a lot of engine parts,” he said, many of which he uses in his creations.

He recently transformed an old parking lot light into a birdbath.

Some of the items he uses in his art he collects through his work at Western Kentucky University. Radus refers to himself as the “surplus guy.”

 When WKU officials decide they want to get rid of certain items, whether they be broken filing cabinets, bent-up desks or broken chairs, they either sell them or get Radus to haul them to a scrapyard.

While he’s at the scrapyard he does a little shopping.

“While I’m there, I’m like ‘how much do you want for this here,’” he said.

One particular find was an old iron wheel that was severely bent.

“They had a round one and they had that one,” he said. “The guy said, ‘Don’t you want the round one?’ I said, ‘No, you can get round ones anywhere.’ I have no idea what I’m going to do with it. I’m sure I’ll turn it into something.”

He also picked up a roll of barbed wire.

“I just love the way barbed wire looks,” he said.

He once made a swan of wrapped barbed wire.

Radus is working on a blue bottle tree. It will be the second such creation he has made. His first blue bottle tree sits in the flower bed in front of his home. He made it from, what else, old blue bottles.

“We went up to New Jersey last year for vacation with my family and coming back we stopped in Baltimore at the [American Visionary Art Museum]. They had a great big bottle tree outside. I thought, ‘Yeah, I like that,’ so I just whipped that together,” he said. “Everybody has been giving me blue bottles.”

His inspiration comes from a variety of places. Sometimes from another artist’s work, such as the bottle tree, or it could be inspired by a piece of junk that lends itself to being something unique and useful, such as parking lot lights, he said.

Radus is a member of the Arts Guild of the Barrens and as such his work has been featured at the Fine Arts Bistro on Glasgow’s downtown square as part of Guild’s exhibit.

He made the sign that hangs on the front of the restaurant.

Peggy Bates, who owns the Fine Arts Bistro with her husband, Sandy, came to know Radus through a Glasgow-Barren County Chamber of Commerce Committee that eventually evolved into the art guild.

Bates is a fan of Radus’ artwork.

“It’s contemporary. It’s wonderful,” she said. “We thoroughly enjoyed working with him.”

One of her favorite pieces that Radus did was an Uncle Sam sculpture.

“That’s a pretty cool piece,” she said, adding it stood out when it was on display.

Radus has entered his work in several art shows, including the U.S. Bank art show at the Kentucky Museum on WKU’s Bowling Green campus and at the Kentucky State Fair. He also showcased his work at various studios and galleries, including the World’s Greatest Studio Art Tour and Sale in Bowling Green, Memphis Marsha’s Art Gallery also in Bowling Green and at the Living Arts and Science Center in Lexington.

Radus is not a trained artist.

“I have the privilege, I guess, of not having any education as far as that is concerned, so I don’t have any idea of what I can’t do,” he said. “I don’t have any sense of my own limitations, so I’m not corrupted by it.”

He would like to be able to retire and make a living from selling his artwork. How long before he can do that depends on how much artwork he sells, he said.

“Ideally, if I could make half of my income off doing this that would be perfect,” he said.