Welcome back for the conclusion in our chat with Art Donovan, steampunk author, artist and curator.
Part One can be read here.
Part Two can be read here.
Part Three can be read here.
Airship Ambassador: Another place for people to see your work is in your book, The Art of Steampunk. This revised second edition adds to the first, which showed the exhibits from that exhibition in Oxford, with new works from other artists and yourself. How did the original book and the revision come about?
Art Donovan: Actually, I had all of my own essays written before a publisher had contacted me to do a book on the show. Rather than writing about the other artists myself in the first edition, I asked the artists to describe their works using their own selected pictures. I felt this gave the reader a more genuine and intimate look into the creative minds and hearts of those great artists. The artists who participated in the book were so very generous and gracious in providing their work for the editions and I feel it really adds a unique and more intimate flavor to the books.
I sincerely thank them- one and all 🙂
AA: What were your guidelines for adding new items in the revision? What kinds of items did you have to sadly leave out?
AD: Ah, The BIG QUESTION! I shall explain:
In order for me to curate the original Oxford show, I was given only one, single solitary directive:
“The selected works in the show had to be physical, three dimensional sculptural objects which would compliment the works in the Museum’s permanent collection of ancient and antique scientific devices.” Most regrettably, I was NOT permitted to include painting, graphics, fashion, jewelry or digital art. I did, however, sneak in jewelry by Daniel Proulx because Dr. Bennett agreed that his jewelry was more along the lines of tiny, mechanical/scientific objects. The Second Edition of the “The Art of Steampunk” then featured many of the artists that I originally wanted to include in the original Oxford exhibition thus expanding the media and types of works.
AA: What kind of research went into initially finding those artists and their works?
AD: All over the net! Days, weeks months! It seemed insurmountable at first. It was not only the difficulty of locating many of the global artists’ emails, but also finding artists whose work was available to display for over four months or not already sold to clients. It took me 7 months of net research just to get in touch with Haruo Suekichi in Tokyo. (At the time, he had no website, no artist rep, no contact method whatsoever.) Then, the difficulty of translating emails from English to Japanese to English, because Google Translate did not accommodate Japanese text in 2008.
AA: Are there enough other works which you’d like to highlight in order to create Volume 3?
AD: In 2015? There’s now probably 100 new and fantastic artists that I would absolutely love to add for another book. But I do have a deep concern about this genre and I will be candid about it.
Originally in Steampunk art and design in 2007, each artist displayed a dazzling and singular vision in their work. The artists brought a new, never-before-seen originality to this bourgeoning genre. Each piece was unlike any other artist’s piece. Their uniqueness was breath taking. But now, 8 years later, I regret to say that so many of the newer works are simply permutations of the original artist’s concepts. ( I keep receiving emails from new enthusiasts creating “plumbing pipe lamps” -whereby every single lamp looks exactly like all of the others- and asking me if they can exhibit in a future show.) There are now thousands of these same pipe lamp designs on Etsy and eBay. I am honored of course that they contact me but there is absolutely no substitute for stark originality and vision.
I say, “Take a Chance!” Bring your own personal likes, desires, views and experiences to your art. It does not matter what genre, style of work you create. Be Original- because that is in the only true art that will sing.
AA: Those are great words of wisdom for everyone in anything they do. For the aspiring artist, writer, and curator who is motivated by your accomplishments, what lessons have you learned along the way, and what suggestions would make to them?
AD: The ‘ol “Get everything in writing” of course is the Prime Directive.
*Research everything until you are exhausted.
*Edit. Edit, Edit- your work and theirs.
*And again, be original!
That will be the most difficult and most satisfying thing you will accomplish.
AA: If you weren’t creating, writing, and displaying these amazing works of art, what else would you be doing now?
AD: I can’t possibly imagine doing any other career, Kevin.
I do know for sure that I’ll never go back to driving a taxi in NYC,J
AA: I’m glad you use your design skills and expertise, and share your creative genius with us! Looking beyond your design work, what other interests fill your time?
AD: Our dogs. Streaming Video (bless that technology). Antiquing and gardening with Leslie. Being with my Masonic Lodge in Sag Harbor. (25 years in the Craft)
AA: How do those interests influence your work?
AD: I use it all. Glimpses of antiques in stores or at auction, Museum trips. My sci-fi toy days at Mego, my Masonic influences, my industrial design background. I use everything I possibly can.
AA: Two quick random questions – what is your favorite wood to work with, relaxing or inspiring location?
AD: First, I like mostly all woods for different aesthetic, structural and finishing purposes: Maple. Mahogany, Cedar, sometimes Oak, Walnut for sure. But if you are simply taking about the art of Carving- there is only one wood- Basswood! They call it “God’s Gift to Wood Workers.” Carves like a dream. Finishes like glass.
For relaxing, believe it or not, Leslie and I LOVE antique auctions. So much fun, but advice here: Always attend the Auction Preview and don’t bid on anything you have not already examined in detail. Also: Keep your paddle DOWN unless you know exactly what you are bidding on and why you want it in the first place. Because of the excitement and the possibility of getting a great deal, auctions can be very seductive.
AA: Any final thoughts to share with our readers?
AD: Probably a lot but I can’t think of any right now. Just to say thank you, Kevin, for your generous comments and compliments and the great opportunity to participate. It’s been a pleasure 🙂
In the words of Billy Fish in “The Man who would be King”…. Wishing you all many good lucks”
Thanks, Art, for joining us and sharing all of you experiences!
More information is also available on his page in The Steampunk Museum