NEWS- Talent from tragedy: 'Junkyard junkie' creates 'found art'
Charlottesville native Steve Musulin was on his way to a successful professional wrestling career until a horrific accident 20 years ago brought it to a screeching halt. Now, after serving time in prison and years of rehab, he's found a new career in metal sculpture.
Musulin, 53, says he was under the influence of drugs in 1984 when his car struck another car, killing its driver and leaving himself paralyzed. After a year in recuperation and rehab at Staunton's Woodrow Wilson Hospital, he regained enough use of his legs to allow him to serve a 10-month sentence in a Georgia state penitentiary for vehicular homicide.
Although his eight-year wrestling career had been a success, Musulin now claims that he "lost touch with reality" in the "barbaric" world of professional wrestling that led to his drug abuse.
He has shared his story in classrooms as a cautionary tale for young drivers.
The accident will be "on my conscience forever," Musulin says. "I tell them how a terrible thing can happen so quickly in hopes that it might keep some kid from being behind the wheel intoxicated."
If something else positive could result from tragedy, it could be that the accident may have helped Musulin's inner artist to surface, and as just he has motivated teenagers with his cautionary tale, Musulin now hopes to inspire people with his art.
"He's just a doll baby," says his promoter, Linda Harding. "He's really talented, and it's fun to watch him grow as an artist."
"Because of my injuries, I had to walk with a cane," Musulin says. "I started going out in the woods, cutting branches and making my own canes."
Musulin says carving the canes renewed his interest in learning to weld, so he signed up for a class. When the class was cancelled, he decided he would try to pick it up on his own.
"I've always had that creative urge," he says.
Musulin, who says he no longer does drugs or even keeps alcohol in his home, says he has found other ways to entertain himself, channeling his creativity into making art from found objects.
The self-proclaimed "junkyard junkie" says he enjoys going to the auto salvage yard every Saturday morning to find steel objects to recycle in his sculptures.
"I don't alter pieces– I just put them together like a puzzle," he says. "I look for odd shapes that will give me inspiration."
Musulin says he tries to express humor in his art with cartoonish characters that will amuse buyers.
"I'm not a very good welder technically," he admits, "but I have a good abstract mind."
Musulin has been welding for about a year and a half, and October 14 marked the anniversary of his first show at the Waynesboro Fall Foliage Festival. With just four shows under his belt, he has sold over 250 pieces.
"It's so remarkable that I stumbled upon it by accident," he says. "It truly amazes me that I can create something that people will pay for and walk away with a smile."
PHOTO BY JEN FARIELLO