Aug 17 2008 11:25pm

Steampunk in the Hamptons

Sam Van OlffenI just got back from a group steampunk art exhibit in the Hamptons. (Yes, the Hamptons—further solidifying steampunk in mainstream consciousness.) The show was small but interesting. I’m not well versed in steampunk, in literature or in design. I love its general aesthetic and the warmth it brings to hard materials; on the other hand, I generally prefer economy in style and design. Clockwork gears are fascinating as long as they are doing their job. A few of the pieces in the show looked cool but were layers of gears simply glued on top of one another, like frosting flowers in a birthday cake.

Datamancer was the only artists I knew of going into the show. They had one of his beautiful tripped-out PCs there and it was a beauty to behold.

My favorite work was from clockmaker Eric Freitas. He took the interior mechanisms of the clocks and morphed them into organic shapes—metallic twigs, almost-leaves, and shapes reminiscent of insect exoskeletons. Stunning. They evoke both decay and growth:

I should note, my mother was with me (yay mom!) and she had never heard the term “steampunk” before. She said she was pleasantly surprised and was particularly taken by the suggested narratives in Sam Van Olffen’s prints. A great series of carnival themes mixed with dystopian tropes of gas masks and early war machinery.

1. Randolph
Changes in design often come from the top down--rich people can afford really large, dramatic expressions of new work, or time-consumingly detailed small work. I am starting to suspect that steampunk is more about the future than the past.
eric orchard
2. orchard
Interesting breaking down of the high art low art thing. I hadn't known Eric Freitas work, it's really beautiful and reminds me of Lee Bonticou's work. Steampunk is in that great position of being able to startle people and charm them at the same time.
3. markmarkmark
Eric's stuff is at . His blog shows how he makes this stuff too, so it's pretty cool...

Also his flickr stream is pretty kick ass as it has larger pix of the clocks.
Irene Gallo
4. Irene
Markx3: You beat me to it. I was going to point out that his flickr set is even cooler than his blog. I'm hoping to lure him into our galleries. If he agrees, I'll do a follow-up post.
Vanessa Paolantonio
5. vanessa_p
The clock is really beautiful and smart. Taking something mechanical and morphing it into something organic, it makes you think of origins and even time as a concept. How eventually everything organic and man made will end up as fossil fuels for future civilizations.

It reminds me of an artist I saw at the Coconut Grove Art Exhibit years ago in Miami. He would take parts of machines and engines and make furniture, like chairs and tables out of them. Even though the ultimate goal was commercial in nature, it still evokes the same feelings as the clock does.
6. art donovan
Hi, Irene,

Just an additional but very important note.

Eric Freitas' clocks.
Jake's Guitar.
Crab Fu's steam powered robots and artwork.
Datamancers new Computer Mod.
Suzanne Rachael Forbes' art.
Bethany Peters art & sculpture.
Hunter Herricks' scuplture.
Sam Van Ollfen's art.
Roger Wood's clock.
Steve Ernebergs rare collection and scupture.
Jos De Vinks' Video & art.
Tatjana Van Vark's machines.
AND Jesse Newhouses' unbelievable Gramaphone, I-Pod Dock must all truly be seen in person.

It's the most exciting collection of art and design that I have seen in 32 years of being in the profession. I have the rare and wonderful privilage of being amongst this magnificent and creative work every day.

The show is open all week from 10am to 6 pm -through Sunday, 8/24. If anyone has the oppportunity, please don't miss it.

Thanks again, Art Donovan
Heather Massey
7. sfrgalaxy
That sounds like a great exhibit. I love steampunk stories and styles and art because it all seems so timeless.
Jeffrey Richard
8. neutronjockey
What am I more impressed with: Irene's mom enjoying steampunk art pieces or the fact that a steampunk art exhibit was put on in the Hamptons --- perhaps Irene's mom enjoying a steampunk art exhibit in the Hamptons is the answer.

I have perhaps underestimated the coolness of both theatermom AND steampunk.
9. R.Solow
I was at the show this weekend as well, and it completely blew me away! I managed to corner Eric Freitas to ask him some questions - the guy taught himself how to use the machinery to make those clocks, and hand cuts everything, down to the last gear!

It takes thousands of hours to make one clock, so I guess I'll be saving for a while before I can afford one!
10. artdonovan
Hi, Again, Irene,

Just a note of clarification.

You had mentioned that there were designs with "layers of gears glued on top of one another" at the exhibition.

This is not so in ANY of the works in this show. You may possibly be referring to the type of Steampunk work seen on D.I.Y/Crafts websites like "Etsy". But at this exhibition, the master artworks presented are welded and bolted with nary a "glued-on gear" to be found anywhere. It was not only the designs but the integrity and craftsmanship that places these works as the finest current examples of Steampunk design. This is reason these particular artists were chosen for the exhibition.

Thank you again for allowing me to clarify, as my artists in the show had brought this to my attention after reading your post.
My Very Best Regards, Art
Irene Gallo
11. Irene
Thanks for stopping by, Mr Donovan. I must admit, I went to the show ever so slightly cranky about some of the fussiness in some steampunk art and yet came away feeling much more connected to the genre than I expected to. Thank you for the experience.

I thought I had seen one, super cool _looking_ piece that had a number of gears left unconnected to a fellow gears. (There must be some engineering word for this - like the loop&hook for velcro.) I am sorry if I misunderstood the work and/or misrepresented it. As I say, it is a very fine show and I've encouraged anyone in the area to go check it out.
William S. Higgins
12. higgins
I thought I had seen one, super cool _looking_ piece that had a number of gears left unconnected to a fellow gears. (There must be some engineering word for this - like the loop&hook for velcro.)


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