Pass Christian artist John Walrod, known in the art community as just “Walrod,” explores the steampunk genre in the medium of 3-D assemblage sculptures in his Victorian Steampunk exhibit and sale opening on Friday December 3, 2021, 5:30 – 7 p.m. at the Union County Heritage Museum.
Attend the opening and meet the award winning artist and see his unique creations. His palette includes a collection of vintage metal, glass and wood materials he finds when as a ‘picker’ he moves through flea markets, garage sales and antique stores.
Walrod has an engineering degree from Mississippi State University and has worked as a design engineer on the Mississippi Gulf Coast for more than 30 years, a career that has helped him create his assemblage artwork.
The world of Steampunk is an alternative world that is a sub-genre of science fiction and incorporates retro-futuristic technology and art inspired by the industrial steam powered machinery. In other words you never know what you will see but there are familiar parts of the art pieces used in most interesting and creative ways.
“I’ve always liked antiques, old handcrafted art and science fiction,” Walrod said. “Steampunk is a fascinating amalgamation of my favorite things; it attracted my attention almost immediately.”
The exhibit features his new “Strangel” series that “explores the ancient archetype of sentient and sacred winged creatures”, consisting of vintage copper, brass and steel assemblages. Strangel Sprocket expresses love for a Victorian heating grate, while Strangel Mercury lets the viewer know what to do with a vintage outboard motor cover and with Strangel Compass – of course, you “find your way”.
“Over the years, I’ve scored a few ‘museum-quality’ pieces,” he said. “One was a framed 16th-century print that was covered in dry mud by Hurricane Katrina. I found it at a local yard sale for $1. Another was an antique life-size articulated chrome-metal spine and skull medical anatomy model my wife helped me find at a local garage sale for $5. It was a wicked cool pick. A similar piece resides in the Smithsonian.”
“Great design engineering is all about creative solutions,” he said. “It requires out-of-the-box thinking; a blending of ideas that isn’t commonly associated; composition, craft and attention to detail just like art. Good engineering solutions frequently include appeal, symmetry, cleverness, economy and beauty – qualities that I also value in my artwork.”
Walrod says the steampunk genre is “a small but highly enthusiastic niche.” He has won numerous awards, such as the 2013 Creative Artist Award at the Peter Anderson Art Fest in Ocean Springs and the 2018 Best of Show Award at the Gulf Breeze Fine Arts Festival in Florida. Among other honors he was awarded the 2018 ArtQuest Award of Excellence and 2021 Judges’ Choice at the Ridgeland Fine Arts Fest.
“Interestingly, the love of the art aesthetic itself transcends beyond the steampunk niche to lots of folks who have never heard the term “steampunk,’” he said. “I generally focus on the aesthetic in my artwork, not the genre, and the response has been very rewarding.”
He says that “his odd, yet powerful inventions are highly coveted by inept governments, superheroes, Pascagoula aliens, conspiracy theorists and deposed heads of state…”
“We are excited to offer this kind of creativity to our community. These are pieces of artwork that you look at and then look again and again to see what he has put together to create them, said Jill Smith, Museum Director. “A lot of new faces can be seen in old pieces of equipment.”
The Victorian Steampunk exhibit and sale is offered at no charge and is open to the public. The exhibit continues through January 2022. The Union County Heritage Museum is located at 114 Cleveland Street, New Albany, MS. Hours are Tuesday through Friday 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. and 10 – 3 on Saturday. For information call 662-538-0014.
Jill Smith, Director