Beaumont man uses pyrography, scrap to create futuristically themed art
The High Street Gallery, located inside the Victoria House, 2110 Victoria St. in Beaumont, will feature the work of John Fulbright on Friday, Dec. 6, at 7 p.m.
Admission is free and prices begin at around $40 for Fulbright’s works, which are created by utilizing pyrography, the art of decorating wood or other materials with burn marks resulting from the controlled application of heat.
The word “pyrography” is Greek in origin and means “writing with fire.” The art is also referred to as wood burning or pokerwork and has been practiced by many cultures around the world, dating back to the Egyptians.
“The reason it is called pyrography is that I am using a blow torch and metal items that I place on the wood to create little scenes of whatever I’m thinking about,” Fulbright said. “I’m working with the paint that exists on the wood … creating a positive-negative impression on the wood itself.”
Fulbright, a Beaumont photographer for 25 years, said he began creating pyrograms in 2010, as a response to the devastation caused by Hurricanes Rita and Ike, which destroyed his darkroom.
“Sometimes art is the only response to catastrophe,” he said.
Needing a new creative outlet, Fulbright began collecting metal objects, wooden planks and other discarded knick-knacks, accumulating material considered worthless by its original owners.
“I gathered all this material by myself, and most of it was gathered within a mile of my home,” he said. “In 2007, I started gathering the material and in 2010, started creating the objects … very specific to Old Town (Beaumont).”
Through pyrography, Fulbright was able to recycle these discarded items, not only aiding the environment but also creating wondrous works of stylish and futuristically themed artwork.
“Walking around seeing the destruction, it seemed a natural thing to do,” he said. “It allowed me a creative space without chemicals and paper. It’s a very fast process, and the results are immediate.”
Fulbright said pyrograms are similar to photograms, where objects in the darkroom are placed on light-sensitive paper and then exposed to light, a technique sometimes called cameraless photography.
“I’m riffing off that idea but using wood and fire, a pyrogram,” Fulbright said.
Fulbright’s art has a futuristic, almost science-fiction theme to it, he said.
“I’m trying to create images about the future using images from the present,” Fulbright said. “I’m interested in what role art has in the future. Without art, we wouldn’t know anything about our past, and art is relevant to the future because it is a step toward making ideas more concrete. When you view art, it challenges your mind by challenging your preconceptions. Concept art and science fiction helps us to conceive and make it happen in the future.”
Fulbright said his futuristic themes revolve around defeating gravity and overpopulation.
“The secret to our future is defeating gravity in one way or the other,” Fulbright said. “With overpopulation, one day I’m sure we’ll have to either creatively use the planet or be able to get off the planet. Either way, we are going to have to learn how to defeat gravity in an efficient way.”
Robots are another theme of Fulbright’s work.
“Humans as organic robots is important to me,” he said. “We can program ourselves however we want, and robots can be programmed to be happy. One day you may not be able to tell an organic being from a created one.”
The work of Michael Crommett, a 2010 Lamar University studio art graduate and neighbor of Fulbright, will also be on display and available for purchase at the High Street Gallery, Fulbright said. Crommett recently returned from teaching art in Korea.
“I got to talking with him over the fence and saw that he had some artwork and asked him to join the show,” Fulbright said. “He’s been working in secret on a new project involving pinwheels. I’m very excited to see his work.”
For more information about Fulbright’s artwork, visit www.pyrograms.tumblr.com or search High Street Gallery on Facebook.