Adriana Carvalho made her first sculptures when she was a child, playing on the banks of a river in the Brazilian town of Taquaritinga, where she was born in 1961. From the clay beds she and her friends sculpted models of their town–“little houses, trees, people, animals, a whole scene,” she recalls. “It was great to create my own characters, my own dolls, each one with their own personality.” And she liked having the freedom to make them look however she liked. If she wanted one of her people naked, she says, “I could have her naked.”

When hippies started appearing in Taquaritinga around 1972, Carvalho was attracted by “their crafts, their talk, and the way that they sat out under the trees.”

She first visited Chicago in 1989. Its architecture, especially its metal bridges–“We don’t have bridges like that in Brazil”–greatly impressed her, and she moved here in 1990. She still loves each bridge’s design, “how strong it is, the iron. Some parts are rusted, some parts are painted, there are huge bolts and rivets, and they give the feeling that they’ll survive for a long time.”

Inspired by these bridges, Carvalho took a welding course at the Evanston Art Center and began to sculpt in metal. She works regularly with scrap and has a large collection of it in her studio–a bundle of rusted coat hangers that are fused together, a wall of rusted disks, and sprocketed wheels that she plans to arrange in a large circle as an installation. The studio is next to a recycling center, and she hunts for new material by watching for things that fall off the trucks that enter.

Carvalho calls several of her sculptures “creatures.” One creature has three wheels at its base, with nails protruding from two sides. “The nails are not sharp, can’t hurt. These “creatures’ shield themselves for defense, for protection, but at the same time you can approach them.” One of her recent projects was making brass underwear. She thought “it would be very interesting and sensual and different because I never saw metal underwear.” Among the brass undies hanging in her studio is a pair that’s elaborately “crocheted” with metal wire. Admittedly, she likes to “shock a little bit,” and is thinking of appearing in a pair of brass panties at the Around the Coyote fashion show in September.

Seven of Adriana Carvalho’s metal sculptures, including two creatures, are on view through August 12 at Aldo Castillo Gallery, 3513 N. Lincoln. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 6 PM. Call 525-2536 for more.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Chip Williams.