If you have not yet heard of the art-form called steampunk, please permit me to enlighten you. I’m a big fan of steampunk sculpture and I’m in fact a steampunk artist. By way of a definition, steampunk art asks the following question: What would objects look like if modern technology had existed in the Victorian, stem-powered era? Jules Vern’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea, and the contraptions featured in the movie Wild, Wild West (1999, with Will Smith) are perfect examples of the science fiction genre that we call steampunk.
Today, the popular steampunk look often includes modern pieces of technology, such as computers, IPods or keyboards that have been modified to look like pseudo-Victorian steam powered machines. The look often includes clock works and industrial steam apparatus. This creative modification of objects in order to create thought provoking and aesthetically pleasing art has been growing in popularity for several years.
There are different aspects of the steampunk movement, often with different followers. Post apocalyptic illustration-art, pseudo-Victorian costumes and science fiction fantasy worlds appeal to some, but it is the sculptural aspect of the genre that appeals to me. It’s a creative outlet that is just plain fun! Since I was a kid, I’ve enjoyed making things from found materials. My interest in tinkering, model railroading and clocks all mesh perfectly with the art of building steampunk gadgets. Here is a photo of a modern digital picture frame that I have “steampunked”.
It has been mounted with lots of vintage brass junk to give the illusion of a steam powered contrivance. I built it to use at antique fairs. We set it up to have images of my inventory scrolling through it at the show. Steampunk artists often give their fabrications whimsical names and concoct far-fetched claims of what their “contraptifications” can do. In this instance, I call it a “transforaminal image perambulator”. Steampunk sculptures incorporate recycled bits of vintage hardware, clock and lamp parts and plenty of imagination.
There is currently an exhibit of steampunk objects on view at The Charles River Museum of Industry & Innovation (CRMI) in Waltham, MA. (until January 15, 2012). CRMI has become somewhat of a world headquarters for the steampunk movement. Here is their website: http://www.crmi.org. I think that steampunk art is an important bridge between it’s relatively young enthusiasts and the somewhat older collectors of main stream antiques and collectables. Any time we can interest young people in the fantastic world of history, material culture and art, only good things can happen. Some of my clients who are traditional collectors of antiques may think I’ve gone a little bonkers. Perhaps so, but I’m having fun. Here is a video of my “steam powered brain wave enhancer” This was completed just in time for Halloween and is currently on view at CRMI.