If you ever have a run-in with a porcupine, you’ll probably remember the experience. Anne Behlau certainly has.
“When I was a six-year-old child, a porcupine came into the tent I was sleeping in with my brother on a mountain pack trip,” the Milton-Freewater metal artist recalls.
“It ate the tops out of my cowboy boots.”
Years later Behlau, who creates steel sculpture from found, repurposed, and recycled metal, fashioned a forkupine, a whimsical, 3-D statuette of a porcupine created from forks.
A Family History of Metal and Blacksmithing
A retired registered nurse, Behlau grew up on small farms, and has been involved with animals all her life. As a young adult she moved to Dayton and raised four children on a 100-acre farm on the North Touchet, and after the kids grew and flew, went back to school for her RN degree. After 27 years of working in the medical field, she retired and turned to the welder, torch, and blacksmith forge. She now also trolls through salvage yards, junk piles, yard sales, and farms looking for metal materials to transform into her art.
“My father was a blacksmith and farrier,” Behlau explains. “My brothers continued the tradition as well as my nephew.
“Since there was such a strong family tradition of blacksmithing, I was drawn to metal work utilizing welder, torch, and forge.”
There is a learning curve, she says. In the three years she has been honing her skills with her tools, she has encountered challenges along the way.
Red Hot Metal
“Working with red hot metal can be tricky and painful at times if you are not careful,” Behlau says. “The upside of working with metal is that, unlike with wood, if you cut it wrong or put it together wrong, it is very forgiving.
“It can be cut apart and rewelded until it looks how you want it. It just takes patience and persistence . . . which I have a lot of.”
Citing a love for all things cowboy, Behlau expresses enthusiasm for creating metal sculptures of horses, ranging from the whimsical to serious.
“I have a lifelong love for horses. I’ve competed in horse shows, trained horses, team roped, barrel raced, and ridden in endurance rides.”
While raising her children, she threw herself and them into 4-H and FFA. Nowadays, that love for horses comes out in the work of her hands.
Behlau does not limit herself to equine subjects, however. All farm and ranch animals, as well as porcupines, attract her interest, along with flowers, people, and graphic design shapes. Her two Scotty dog pets provide constant inspiration, and she has created a 30-pound Scotty sculpture using sections of heavy walled metal pipe, as well as a tiny Scotty, fashioned from a railroad spike. People who see both sculptures express surprise over what makes up the finished product.
Turning Metal Scraps into Art
From forks to garden tools, from scraps of farm machinery to old horseshoes, they all find themselves with new life in a new shape, after a little bit (or quite a lot, actually) of heat and inspiration. What Behlau ultimately creates depends upon the materials she has gathered, along with ideas she picks up from the Internet, personalized by her own spin.
Working out of an unattached shop/garage at her Milton-Freewater home, Behlau markets her work as Anvil Annie Metal Art. She has sold her pieces as a vendor at festivals, through her Facebook page, and at Hamley & Company Saddle and Western Store in Pendleton, OR. Learning as she goes with “a little instruction along the way,” she never quite knows what she will make next, but is certain that it will reflect her love for country and for country life: its people, its animals, its lifestyle.
“My art,” Behlau muses, “is inspired by things that are deep in my heart.”
Anne Behlau is the Featured Art Event from Monday, March 25 through Saturday, April 20 at Wenaha Gallery. She will be at the gallery Saturday, April 13, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for a special Spring Art Show, where she will be joined by Kennewick photographer John Clement and Dayton jewelry and nostalgia journal artist Dawn Moriarty.
Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail email@example.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment.