a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The art of a steelworker

MONESSEN, Pa. – It appears the self-taught artist, Nick Churlig, was playing a crude joke with his sculpture, “Mind Over Matter,” that he created from scraps he picked up at a steel mill.

He plopped a piece of coke used to produce steel directly under a toilet float dangling on a chain, and then spray-painted the items gold.

The rest is left up to the imagination because Churlig died in February at age 86 and didn’t have any descendants to keep alive his story.

He liked to create art from items he recycled from Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel mills in Monessen, Pa., and nearby Allenport. This is the story volunteers tell at the Monessen Heritage Museum, where a half-dozen of Churlig’s creations are on display in a glass case.

Not visible to the right of his "Owl, shown in the above photo, is a shiny missile-shaped piece he painted black and blue before gluing just one tiny seashell to its side. The sculpture is appropriately titled, “Black and Blue.”

Churlig’s primitive art might be a little weird, but it speaks volumes to the resourcefulness of the clever men who toiled in steel mills that have vanished from the region’s landscape.

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