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Garage to gallery

Pinstripers’ wheel work on display at Butler

The work of Steve Chaszeyka and the other artists featured in “American Stripes” normally is found on wheels, not walls.

For the next two months, though, it will be on display at the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown

“American Stripes” features pieces created by more than 30 artists who primarily are known for their customized paint jobs for vehicles.

Chaszeyka, who owns an airbrushing and pinstriping shop in New Middletown and runs a graphics academy that teaches aspiring pinstripers, selected artists who, like himself, push the envelope for what can be done.

“The artists I contacted, each one has a certain style and approach to this,” he said. “They’re not just hot rod pinstripers. They’re talent goes beyond car pinstriping and motorcycle pinstriping … I instructed them, ‘Don’t reinvent yourself, just do what you do,’ and these guys just went over the top.”

The exhibition features artists who work for such well-known brands as Harley Davidson and West Coast Choppers and are well respected throughout the industry.

“The level of skill on these pieces, I’m not saying would stand with (John Singer) Sargent or (Norman) Rockwell, but they certainly could adorn a gallery,” Chaszeyka said. “We’re setting the bar high, so people will strive to get to this level.”

Participating artists in “American Stripes” are Chaszeyka, Guy Shively, Mike Kays, Artie Schilling, Ray Drea, Bobobehounek, Todd Hanson, Ron Brent, Zeke Lamanski, Jeremy Kemp, Tom Van Nortwick, Mark Peters, Chuck Llewellyn, Casey Kennell, Curt Johnson, John Hannukaine, Hot Rod Jen, Nubs, Ryan Evans, Tex McDorman, Jack Flemming, Cameron Bartlett, Andy Cappucio (Pooch), Freddie Villa, Steve Judd, Dewayne Connott, Donald Johnson, Jack Lindenburger, David Hightower, Dillon Proctor, Paul Quinn, Anthony Monaco, Jim Hetzler and Ted Turner.

Chaszeyka’s first exhibition at the Butler in 2012 packed the museum and attracted many first-time visitors.

“(Butler Executive Director) Lou Zona told me it was the biggest crowd they ever had, except for Ron Wood (of the Rolling Stones),” he said.

In conjunction with “American Stripes,” Chaszeyka, 71, created a new show called “Alphabetical Disorder” that will be featured as a companion exhibition in the Butler’s Beecher Center for Art and Technology.

He described “Alphabetical Disorder” as a “labor of imaginative and twisted logic.” One day he created a twisted shape that reminded him of an S, which inspired the idea of creating his own alphabet, one that was bound by the rules most font creators follow.

“I’ve taken every technique I ever knew from custom automotive panting and poured it into this alphabet,” he said.

It took about five years to finish the “Alphabetical Disorder” collection.

“You don’t get all that inspiration in a week,” he said. “I would draw for days and days and days to come up with a W. Some could be huge and take 25, 30 hours to do. Others I did in two hours just, ‘Bam!,’ it happened. Spontaneity and imagination and dreams came into it. I didn’t rush it. I really took my time.”

He believes those works might have a life beyond the Butler exhibition. A business that identifies itself with initials could decorate its lobby with prints spelling out the name. Chaszeyka said it also could be used as an educational tool.

“It’s a great way to introduce kids to art,” he said. ” They know what a letter is. This will tweak their imagination.”

If you go …

WHAT: “American Stripes” and “Steve Chaszeyka: Alphabetical Disorder”

WHEN: Both through June 27. Hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.

WHERE: Butler Institute of American Art, 524 Wick Ave., Youngstown

HOW MUCH: Admission is free. For more information, go to www.butlerart.org or call 330-743-1107.

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