Dayton’s John Beal turns trash into art |

Dayton’s John Beal turns trash into art

Dave Frank
Nevada Appeal Staff Writer
Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal

A menagerie of animals stands still in John Beal’s front yard.

There is a cat made from mufflers, a mouse made from valves and a 10-foot chain snake with a steam iron head coiled by the front door of his Dayton home.

Beal has made thousands of sculptures and art pieces from trash since he retired in 2003. Sometimes friends give him the scrap metal, broken appliances and stripped auto parts, and sometimes he finds it by chance on the side of the road.

But Beal, 69, said he’s only an amateur with a hobby. The animals, flowers and instruments he makes are just things he finds whimsical, he said.

“I don’t want to do art shows,” Beal said. “Some people think they need a pat on the back. I don’t care. If they don’t like it, they don’t like it.”

His favorite piece he’s made recently is giant row of chimes.

The old oxygen tanks painted purple, orange, yellow and blue are cut to make different tones. Beal laughs when he plays them with a mallet.

He has sold some of the flower, spider, bird, scorpion and elephant sculptures at garage sales. He’s given some to friends.

“I started working on cars as a kid and I’d make up goofy things like flowers,” he said. “I can’t tell you all the metal flowers I’ve made over the years.”

When he retired as an aerospace machinist, he had more time to experiment. He said he makes the art for one reason.

“It’s got to bring a smile to your face,” he said. “Otherwise, I’m not going to do it.”

His wife, Millie Beal, is the real artist in the family, he said. She paints, draws murals, sketches historic buildings and builds doll houses.

Matthew Welter, owner of Timeless Sculptures in Carson City, called John Beal’s works of art “true folk.”

“His mix of sculpture and color is whimsical and bare-bones simple,” Welter said in an e-mail. “He lets the material do the detail, but his forms are all John and very creative. John is a dying breed of artist and man.”

– Contact reporter Dave Frank at or 881-1212.