Pass Christian artist John Walrod, known in the art community as just “Walrod,” explores the steampunk genre in the medium of 3D assemblage sculptures in his Steampunk Curiosities exhibit on display at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College Jefferson Davis Campus Fine Art Gallery. The exhibit runs Nov. 4 to Dec. 5, with a closing reception on Nov. 21 from noon to 1 p.m. Steampunk attire is welcome.
“Steampunk is an eclectic world of cogs and rivets. It is airships, goggles and steam. It is romance. It is traveling on clouds and diving beneath rugged waves. It is adventure,” said contemporary writer George Mann.
Since the steampunk subculture first emerged on the scene in the late 2000s, its retro-futuristic combination of science fiction, the British Victorian era, the American Wild West and cyberpunk has captivated audiences around the world. The unique genre incorporates literature, art, fashion, cinema and gaming.
“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.”
His exhibit features his “Extreme Patina” series, consisting of heavily patinated copper, brass and steel assemblages.
His art palette includes an extensive collection of antique and vintage metal and glass and wood materials he has picked from flea markets, garage sales and antique stores.
“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 find. A similar piece resides in the Smithsonian.”
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 pieces.
“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.” His works have garnered the attention of Coast audiences, including a large turnout for a steampunk costume contest at the reception of his Pass Christian Library show in 2018. 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.
“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.”
The Steampunk Curiosities exhibit is offered at no charge and is open to the public. The Jefferson Davis Campus is located at 2226 Switzer Road, Gulfport. The art gallery is located in the Fine Arts Building on the east side of campus, building D.
Gallery hours are Monday–Thursday, 9 a.m.–3 p.m., and Friday, 9 a.m.–1 p.m. The gallery will be closed the week of Thanksgiving.
For more information, contact gallery director Cecily Cummings at [email protected] or 228.897.3909.