Welcome and thank you for reading! This is the first of what I hope will be a series of articles related to Steampunk art. My name is Cynthia Gayton and I am the owner of Steam at Harper’s Ferry, a Steampunk art gallery which began in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia in 2011. I am also an attorney and have been an advocate for the arts for over a decade.
The gallery has moved out of the space in Harper’s Ferry and I am looking at a number of locations in the Washington, DC area and expect to re-open in an exciting location in early 2015. In the meantime, I wanted to take this opportunity to talk about Steampunk art which has become a great passion for me and I hope to instill that passion in all of you! On occasion, I will also write articles addressing general “law and the arts” topics.
When people came into the gallery, more often than not, they thought that they were in a Victorian-era styled home, which just happened to have be-goggled owls, time machines, rayguns, and airships dangling from the ceiling. Folks serving as informal Civil War tour guides would enter with a group declaring with an air of period expertise that, “This is how they lived in the 1860s.” Hmm. I don’t think so. But what makes Steampunk art unique is what is also familiar. On more than one occasion, a visitor would stand for several minutes trying to identify the parts of a Steampunk robot or believe they were familiar with the work of a heretofore unknown visual artist.
Steampunk art is intriguing and strange – but also attractive and engaging. I have had the good fortune of meeting artists whose work ranges from ceramics, illustrations, visual and digital art, photography, painting, sculpture, multi-media, woodworking, metal smithing, letterpress and woodblock printing, millinery, mechanical devices, to glass and enamel work and maybe a few other mediums I can’t recall. It is inspiring and addictive to say the least.
There are no doubt Steampunk art experts out there who are better versed and educated than I, but the gallery experience as well as the relationships with the artists and the public has given me what I consider to be a unique perspective. Steampunk art has the capacity to engage people in a way that harnesses creativity in a fixed medium yet is open enough for manifestations in so many forms. Just talking about Steampunk art with people unfamiliar with the genre will frequently put a light in their eyes about the possibilities. Steampunks are amazing advocates for the movement and have been such a supportive and welcoming gathering that it is difficult to express the universality of its components – from the arts to technology – humanities to the hard sciences – philosophy and civic responsibility – if you can’t find something to love, you’re not looking closely enough!
In my opinion, there are no strict parameters for Steampunk art (like pornography, however, one knows it when one sees it, but one will have to see it again, just to make sure) but there are iconic images and themes which are touched upon by most Steampunk artists.
I want to introduce you to some well-known and up-and-coming Steampunk artists and styles. I look forward to this journey into this ever-evolving genre. If you have any artists you would like to see appear in this column, please send me an email at [email protected] and I will consider including something about the artists in a future column.
Thank you for reading!