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Toni Hughes Turns Metal Lath And All Manner Of Odd Junk Into Weird Things That Critics Call Works Of Art—And She Sells Them!

by Irwin Kostin

MISS TONI HUGHES, New York artist, is the junkman’s delight. Out of the junkyard and the hardware store she has devised a new art form that has become the latest fad in New York art circles and is rapidly sweeping across the country. Her art is readily adaptable to the workshop and should furnish a world of hew ideas to everyone who has a flair for the unique and a workshop and a junkyard handy.

The basis of most of her creations is wire netting, varied with metal lath, grillwork and ordinary wire screen. These materials she supplements with assorted hardware accessories, ribbons, seashells, rubber balls, old funny papers—or what have you?

With a pair of tin shears, a pair of pliers and a deft touch, she turns out fantastic figures that are selling like hotcakes to be used as decorations in fashionable Park Avenue apartments.

One of her elaborate metal lath and wire netting contraptions turns out to be a life-size Victorian lady, complete with a bird cage muff, a bulging bustle and buttons made from glass doorknobs. If you study it long enough, it begins to look strikingly like Mae West.

She has made a whole line of dancing girls from a few strips of metal lath, and they are so strung up that the turn of a lever will make them all kick in unison, like a row of Rockettes at the Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

A funnel, in her hands, becomes the trumpet for a weird-looking musician in a whole jazz band constructed of wire. A Christmas tree ornament becomes a toy balloon held aloft by a barbed-wire boy. One of her most fanciful creations is a bird which is a cross between a pterodactyl and an airplane—with wooden propellers and rubber- tired wheels. A group of gossiping females wear hats folded from old newspaper comic supplements.

Miss Hughes calls her workshop art “metallic shorthand.” She tries to make it so that even the rigid figures will convey a sense of motion.

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