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Turn of the Century Press Clippings

October 5, 2000


A Vegas roll on orphan hubcaps

Reuel Dechene showing 12 illuminated discs at Swizzle Gallery

By John Terauds
Toronto Star What's On Editor

I called Ottawa artist Reuel Dechene during last Sunday's sunny afternoon to ask him about an upcoming Toronto exhibit.

I started by apologizing for keeping him indoors on such a beautiful fall afternoon.

``That's okay,'' he replied. ``I'm on a portable phone. I'm out back making noise with my grinder.''

He was working on his craft - he's part electrical magician, part entertainer, part artist. Actually, Dechene is a part-time artist at this point. A civil servant by day, he has an exhibit of wheel covers opening at College Street's Swizzle Gallery tomorrow.

Starting with orphaned hubcaps - ``there's a lot of construction around Ottawa, so it's not hard to find them at the side of the road'' - Dechene literally weaves magic with light and colour to create art.

Taking ``two to three weeks per piece,'' the 35-year-old Dechene sidles up to his drill press, punctures the metal, then adds ``140 to 200 lights per hubcap.''

The lights in question are multicoloured Christmas bulbs (the small 2 1/2 to 3 1/2-volt type). And he says he's fitted as many as 250 per disc.

The works are hooked up to a little control box which allows for eight to 16 variations of flashing and blinking. Dechene rigs everything in precise sequence to create specific lighting effects.

``I was inspired by the neon glitz of old Las Vegas,'' he says. ``The effect is like a midway carnival ride - a ferris wheel or a tilt-a-whirl.''

He has also set up the electrics so that each hubcap's light show is always in synch with music written in four-four time.

He describes the overall effect as ``crazy, whirling, kaleidoscopic.''

Dechene, who grew up in Montreal and the village of Arthur, Ontario, has a general arts B.A. from Concordia University. He had his artistic epiphany eight years ago, when he moved to Ottawa.

He also says his wife, artist Eliza Griffiths who currently has a show on in Toronto, ``has nurtured me quite a lot.''

Torontonians will be able to view Dechene's art over the next three weeks - 12 fully electrified hubcaps plugged in and hung on the gallery's walls behind blacked-out windows.

``The only visible light source will be 12 Sexy Wheels, throbbing to Dechene's selection of music, as viewers lean back in their space age bean bag chairs,'' the gallery says in a release.

The show, Sexy Wheel Cover Up, opens tomorrow at 8 p.m. at the Swizzle Gallery (1162 College), and runs to October 22. Info: 536-4669. The space is open Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. - or by appointment.

You can also see Dechene's art by visiting http://www.magma.ca/~reueld. (Please note that this is a link to a long extinct service provider. This link will take you to the current homepage.)