Aloha resident creates art for local charities, organizations
Why did the heavy logging equipment mechanic begin producing art?
He wanted to branch out.
When Stu Luxenberg's doctor told him not to do any strenuous work following a plethora of back, shoulder and heart operations, the lifelong welder-mechanic had a pragmatic response.
"I still have a mortgage to pay," he said. "I can't sit, so I decided I'm going to just start doing something."
From his shop in Aloha, Luxenberg has produced metal works for local art shows and farmers markets for the past three years — and people have started to notice.
"I'd always wanted to dabble in art, but … I don't think I'm an artist," he said. "I'm definitely like a bull in a China shop. That's all there is to it."
Luxenberg's thick, meaty hands and blackened fingertips tell their own story of a life working with metal, fire and sulfur. His dirty coveralls illustrate his commitment to the craft. And his property — sprinkled with projects finished and half complete — shows he doesn't remain idle for long.
As a result of nearly four decades working on heavy equipment, Luxenberg has had five back and neck surgeries, including three fusions, two laminectomies, four shoulder surgeries, "and I just had a pacemaker put in two months ago," he said. "But when the doctor finally told me 'You're done,' I wasn't quite ready."
Rethinking career path
"When I graduated (from an east coast-based vocational high school), I had my structural welding certificate," Luxenberg said. "My first job was an 18-story building in Los Angeles — Wilshire (Boulevard) and Manning (Avenue), I'll never forget it."
It didn't take long, however, for Luxenberg to rethink his career path and take his skills to other venues.
After watching a handful of co-workers suffer injuries or die on the job from falling several stories, "I just finally said, 'You know, I like the ground,'" he said. "It feels good standing on dirt."
So in 1982, he moved to Oregon and went to work repairing heavy logging equipment for a few logging equipment dealers such as Japan-based Kobelco.
"Primarily, I mostly did logging equipment," he said. "But really I did everything."
But a career in the woods repairing construction and logging equipment for most his life has made the transition to welding for art something Luxenberg is still reconciling.
"I go to some of these different calls for artists, and I love looking at the beautiful stuff people do ... but I don't fit in there," he said, noting how his handlebar moustache and shaved head make him look more like a biker (which he is) than an artist (which he also is).
Metal Art by Stu
Luxenberg's first artistic venture landed him a booth at the Hillsboro Farmers Market, where he was surprised to find people interested in what he produced.
Now, under the moniker Metal Art by Stu, he participates in art shows throughout the region, makes signs for local organizations and businesses and produces custom designs (like address plates or home signs stenciled with a family name) on commission.
He'll also occasionally produce pieces strictly for donating.
"I like to donate a lot to charities," he said, noting the Darth Vader and Hello Kitty-themed chairs he made for the Community Warehouse's Chair Fair in Portland. "They were huge hits."
"I don't have cash to go give to anything," he continued. "So if I can make something and they can make more money on it, I think that's the greatest way for me to be able to do it. So I like doing that."
Luxenberg's works can now be found all over the region. From the Halloweentown sign in St. Helens to the staircase he's building for a winery in Dundee, Luxenberg's signature is getting noticed — and he recently invested in used equipment to expand what he's able to produce.
"I didn't know how to paint or anything," he said. "Now I have two really nice airbrushes and I do a lot of airbrush work on my stuff."
Luxenberg's colorful fish signs and custom fire pits have been growing in popularity, but he's really looking forward to next year's Halloweentown event, for which he'll make a 7-foot tall, 3-D pumpkin that's 25 feet in circumference.
"I am so excited to do it because it's all hand-formed — hand everything," he said. "I teach myself how to do it, then I just go from there."
By Travis Loose
Reporter, Hillsboro Tribune
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