Milton sculptor turns industrial detritus into art

By Rob Sample
Posted 1/17/24

Most of us put metal items we no longer need into the recycling bins provided by our waste-carting company. But for Marlboro artist Veronica Evanega, those discarded metals are like canvases – …

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Milton sculptor turns industrial detritus into art

Most of us put metal items we no longer need into the recycling bins provided by our waste-carting company. But for Marlboro artist Veronica Evanega, those discarded metals are like canvases – especially those things that once served an industrial purpose. 
In Evanega’s hands, metal items form bits and pieces of provocative post-modern sculpture. Evanega works in a genre of art called neo-constructivism, and her sculpture has been on display locally in the historic Milton Train Station. She also heads the Marlborough Arts Coalition (MaArCo), which aims to create and install public art displays throughout the town.
Recently, Evanega added West Park’s RMV Cellars at Red Maple Vineyard to her list of achievements. There, 13 of her sculptures will challenge, astonish, and delight visitors to the complex’s new brewery, winery and restaurant. The sculpture garden will have its official opening in the spring on April 6. 
When it’s complete, the new sculpture garden will provide visitors with a quiet, outdoor space for reflection. This would be especially true on sunny, warmer days, but the arresting nature of Evanega’s work might even beckon visitors outside during colder months and on overcast days as well.
Evanega intends to share the garden space with other sculptors. “We are planning two shows a year here,” she explained. “It will give sculptors an opportunity to exhibit their work to the public that doesn’t currently exist. And of course, it’s an opportunity for people to come here and purchase works of art that they like.”
“Neo-constructivism” is a form of art, architecture, and sculpture with ties to the constructivist movement founded in early-1900s Russia. Constructivism sought to evoke modern industrial life and in celebrating workers, became a propaganda tool for the Soviets. Neo-constructivism is apolitical but it, too, relies heavily on metal work and industrial themes.
Evanega relies heavily on what she calls “found objects” – what many might term industrial relics – to create geometric works that function either as adornments or as purposeful items. One sculpture featured on her website, “Gothic Chair,” is, indeed, an intricate metal chair built from raw steel, cast steel, and metallic cloth. 
On the autumn day we visited Evanega at work, she was mounting a sculpture entitled “Totem of Industry.” The towering piece makes extensive use of discarded parts from a variety of different trades and in some ways resembles a streetlight. 
“I like to use industrial materials, particularly circular structures such as those that ring the staff of this piece,” said Evanega. Toward the top of the sculpture is a cast-iron pan pointing true north, topped with a copper lamp part, a pot belly stove door, and deco-style glass flame torch. By viewing the final work, you get a sense of everyday items from the past becoming a monument to the constant flow of goods in different shapes and sizes that move into and out of our everyday lives.
Evanega’s body of work extends well beyond sculpture. She runs a commercial enterprise called Eclectique Industries that custom-builds structures for both residential and commercial buildings. Working chiefly in metal and wood, the designs lend an unusual flair to otherwise-mundane railings, doors and gates, doors, and other parts of buildings. One such project: a custom wall trainer for the hotel gym at a Courtyard by Marriott in New York City.
Evanega was born in Westchester County but grew up in Eastern Connecticut and later finished high school in Carmel, Indiana. She returned east for a stint at Parsons School of Design and lived for a time in then-gentrifying Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Evanega sang in a heavy-metal band called GOS and also made music videos for several ‘90s bands that played extensively on MTV and Canada’s Much Music.
“Back then I spent a lot of time in abandoned buildings – which is how I came to love salvaging objects,” she recalled. “I would collect all sorts of things that were just laying around.”
Evanega’s career as an artist got a huge boost in the early 2000s when she became the first visual artist-in-residence for the 111 West 42nd St. theater studio run by the arts foundation ChaShaMa. She also worked as a theatrical costume designer, an outgrowth of her earlier work in a line of metal-based fashion known as “chainmaille.” One example of that method is a shirt constructed almost entirely of small metal and rubber o-rings.
Evanega moved to her current residence and workshop on Conklin Hill Road in Milton in 2002 with then-husband Brett Kahler, who is also a metals sculptor. “We wanted to find a home that had a large space for a studio, and we were drawn to the area because of its agricultural roots,” she recalled. “So many homes came with unused barns, which can be repurposed as art studios.” 
Evanega went on to earn two associate degrees in architecture and construction technologies from SUNY Dutchess, then completing a bachelor’s degree in visual arts/urban planning at SUNY New Paltz. She continues her wide-ranging work. Recently she led a workshop in costume design at Milton’s Sarah Hull Hallock Library. She also stays on the lookout for big demolition projects because they often contain metal elements that can be recycled into artwork.
“I wanted to utilize parts from the old Tappan Zee Bridge and even went to the point of communicating with the governor’s office – to no avail,” she said. “We have all these treasures that get demolished. 
“I am hopeful that in the future I will have more resources to pursue giving these structures new life as works of art for my Reclaiming New York Sculpture Project,” Evanega added. Stay tuned for details.
An Artistic Setting
One of the other works on display, “Necessity of Life,” was created by Evanega’s son, Max Evanega-Kahler. He also works for the Red Maple Vineyards complex. 
“The Necessity of Life sculpture is Max’s work,” said Evanega. “The two of us worked on it together. The vast majority of sculptors do not do the entirety of their own work. I have done fine art fabrication for many other artists.”
The existing winery at Red Maple Vineyards functions chiefly as a space to hold large events, such as weddings. It is only open to the public on Wednesdays. The new RMV Cellars eatery will be open to the public Fridays through Sundays. 
The beauty of the setting has made it a popular event destination. Gary Stone, a native of Zimbabwe (when it was known as “Rhodesia”), has owned the winery since 2012. He added the adjoining acreage to build the brewery in 2015.
The complex also provides a living example of both artistry and preservation – particularly in its repurposing of old buildings and materials for new uses. To cite one example, the eatery’s new wood-fired pizza oven utilizes bricks that were salvaged from the nearby Mother Cabrini School, which was demolished in 2017. 
In addition, most of the wood used throughout the complex is from trees on the surrounding land: It is sawn and fashioned into wooden structures by expert carpenters.