The international magazine presents the work of the artist STX Metal
Many Virgin Islanders know metallurgist Mike Walsh for his 17-foot-tall aluminum sculpture, the Middle Passage Monument, on the lawn of the Holy Cross Education Complex. He has now gained international viewers of his works in the quarterly magazine Artist Talk, published in Great Britain.
Walsh and his work are featured in a six-page display in number 13 of the magazine, released in October.
âI literally have no exposure beyond friends and visitors, so when they [Artist Talk] asked, I agreed, âWalsh told the source.
Walsh’s metal sculptures are scattered around St. Croix, and customers have seen more in his gallery at Peter’s Rest. There are several in Fort Frederik, St. George Village Botanical Gardens, and St. Croix Research and Technology Park. There are also sculptures in private residences.
Much of his work can be seen online on its website.
Walsh arrived in Sainte-Croix in 1976 from Long Island, New York. He had graduated from Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, where one of his professors – “metal guy” – sparked his interest in steel, bronze and aluminum sculpture.
Walsh said he was happy to get away from the mainland and focus on his art.
âIt was a personal endeavor rather than a way to get rich,â he said of his early years on the island.
With a large community of boaters and buildings with metal hurricane brackets, there was a lot of work for Walsh. He himself learned metal fabrication for some projects. One big project was to build metal components for a movie set, “Dreams of Gold”, which recounted the discovery of the sunken treasure of the sunken Spanish ship Atocha. He also made metal parts for dredging around the ship.
Walsh and his wife, Barbara, opened Walsh Metal Works and Gallery shortly after moving to St. Croix, with Barbara taking care of the office work and helping Mike recruit workers and interns.
Walsh hired several steelworkers to help build the 12-foot-by-17-foot-high Middle Passage monument in the late 1990s, a work that eventually found a home in front of the St. Croix educational complex, and the first sculpture somewhat different now at home at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. The purpose of the monuments was to honor those who died during the transatlantic slave trade.
âAfter researching the history of the slave trade, I chose to portray the belief of a gateway through which the spirit returns to Africa via the island below the sea. This large piece in aluminum consisted of two joined parts representing the opening that connected two worlds – the physical with the spiritual return, âWalsh wrote in Artist Talk.
Prior to its burial at sea in 1998, the marine version of the Middle Passage Monument was on display in Riverside Park overlooking the Hudson River in New York City. After a dedication ceremony and a funeral procession with dignitaries from Africa and elsewhere, there was a night vigil. The monument, in pieces, was then sailed by the Yankee Clipper east into the Atlantic Ocean and dumped overboard to mark a mass grave. Walsh said he attended the event in New York City but was not recognized as having anything to do with the sculpture.
According to Walsh, the second sculpture should have been purchased by Bermuda, which was a slave trade hub, but no contact was made to arrange delivery. Eventually, Walsh was told to move him to the University of the Virgin Islands. Walsh said he decided to install the monument in high school – a “quick deployment with staples.” He is amazed that the sculpture withstood all hurricanes except Maria, who inflicted damage.
In 2007, a representative from Bermuda visited St. Croix and an official dinner and reception was held in his honor. Walsh delivered him to school to view the sculpture the next day but had to abandon the man to take a robbery with his family. Nothing came out of the visit and the monument remains on the school grounds.
There was no formal groundbreaking ceremony by the Department of Education, Walsh said, but the school’s PTA has commissioned miniature sculptures for several years for the student’s awards. year. Walsh said there was a so-called dedication just before Hurricane Maria with about a dozen people in attendance.
For several years before the storms of 2017, the Walshe held art exhibitions, which often included his sleek, oversized sculptures along with other local and regional artists. Hopefully the emissions will return once COVID-19 is under control.
Over the years, Walsh has exhibited his work at the National Academy of Design in New York, El Museo Moderno de Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, the Joslyn Museum of Art in Omaha, Nebraska, and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, as well as galleries across the Caribbean.