SPRINGFIELD, Vt. – The gritty industrial vibe of Springfield, paired with a Victorian proto-computer age aesthetic, were the original inspiration for organizers of the Steampunk Festival held here annually for the past several years. While the festival is on hiatus this year, the Steampunk beat goes on at the Gallery at the VAULT on Main Street with a special Steampunk show until Sept. 26.
“We’ve had people stopping by specifically to look at our Steampunk collection,” says Marilyn Miller, gallery manager, “and others have stopped in looking for the festival itself. Fortunately, we’re able to offer the Steampunk-inspired pieces of several local artists to keep the theme alive until the festival can come back next year.”
Six local artists participating in the show include Lynette Carsten, Lois Warren, Sarah Machtey, Sue Carey, Rebecca Skrypeck, and Jan Gould. Their work ranges from the almost-practical Steampunk refrigerator magnets to an elaborate Steampunk Santa fit for a fanciful holiday tabletop.
“Five of the artists have shown Steampunk-related work here at the VAULT before,” said Miller. “Rebecca Skrypeck is new this year – she made this amazing Edgar Allen Poe piece.”
Skrypeck’s tribute to Poe, a large circular metal collage done in dusty Steampunk grays and browns, rested on an easel next to other Steampunk favorites including tiny metallic handbags, belts, and jewelry made of metal pop tabs, and a collection of miniature top hats in metal and felt.
Steampunk, a term coined in the late 1980s by science fiction author K.W. Jeter, is influenced by the style of the 19th-century scientific romances of Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, Mary Shelley, and Edward S. Ellis. The film “Brazil” (1985) was an important early cinematic influence that helped establish the genre.
In fine art, Remedios Varo’s paintings combine elements of Victorian dress, fantasy, and technofantasy imagery. In television, one of the earliest manifestations of the Steampunk ethos in the mainstream media was the CBS television series “The Wild Wild West” (1965–1969), which inspired the later film.
Writing to an editor in the 1980s, Jeter said, “Personally, I think Victorian fantasies are going to be the next big thing, as long as we can come up with a fitting collective term for Powers, Blaylock [authors] and myself. Something based on the appropriate technology of the era; like ‘steam-punks,’ perhaps…. ”
Now, almost 40 years later, Steampunk is alive and well and on display at the VAULT through Sept. 26. For more information, visit the VAULT website at www.galleryvault.org.