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Leaving Wally behind

Tony Dow's sculpture coming to Stephano's.

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'UNARMED WARRIOR': Exhibited at the Louvre.
  • 'UNARMED WARRIOR': Exhibited at the Louvre.

Tony Dow will always and forever be known as the well-behaved big brother "Wally" on the "Leave it to Beaver" show, but for several years he's taken on another important role: As an artist.

Through an unusual set of circumstances involving the recovery of a lost e-mail from Little Rock gallery owner Stephano, Arkansans will know Dow as both role model to the Beave and as a sculptor who works in wood and bronze.

Stephano Fine Art will open a one-man show of Dow's work on Oct. 15, and Dow and his wife, Lauren, will be in town for planned festivities.

Stephano came across Dow's website during a search on the Internet for artists who work in bronze. He was so impressed with what he saw that he e-mailed Dow, saying he'd be interested in representing him. That was last August.

Nothing happened until this spring, when Dow's wife, Lauren, responded apologetically, saying they hadn't meant to be rude; they'd just overlooked the e-mail.

Dow lives in California and has exhibited one of his sculptures at the Louvre. So why is he interested in showing his work — which can be quite expensive — in Little Rock?

"It's difficult to get recognition as an artist in these economic times," Dow said in an interview last week. His gallery in Beverly Hills has gone out of business, and his piece at the Louvre hadn't generated the attention he'd hoped — until Stephano contacted him. Too, he said, "my in-laws live in Kansas City, so we thought maybe it would be fun."

After his years of performing on "Leave it to Beaver" from 1957 to 1963, Dow became a visual artist, working in copper and showing in street festivals. "I had a period there where I decided I was going to become a serious sculptor," he said, and he studied art for a time at UCLA. But he returned to show business, acting and directing.

Now Dow, 65, is spending more time making sculpture. For the most part, he carves his pieces in burlwood before they are cast in bronze, though he recently sent to the foundry a commissioned five-foot piece made of sculpting foam, glue and sand on a wire frame. His smaller pieces — two at Stephano's are little more than 18 inches high — are abstracted figures that, like Henry Moore's work, emphasize the torso. One of those works, "Unarmed Warrior," was selected for the Salon 2008 De La Nationale Des Beaux-Arts at the Carrousel Du Louvre. Dow's "Inside Out," on display at Sissy's Log Cabin in the Heights, uses a sphere to symbolize the female (who embodies the natural) and a cube to represent the male (the fabricator).

Some people who'll come to see Dow's bronzes and wood sculpture at Stephano Fine Art will be motivated by his celebrity rather than his artwork. Does that bother him?

"I don't have any control over that," Dow said. But, "I'd rather be considered at this point in time as a sculptor who had a past rather than a person who is trying to capitalize on fame."

Dow has not turned his back on acting. When he leaves Little Rock, he heads to Fort Worth for four performances of the two-man play "Love Letters."

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