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by Paula Michele Bolado
WHEN ONE THINKS ABOUT the Steampunk phenomenon, a collage of Victorian era images enter the mind: glimmery brass clocks, antique keys, Edison or Marconi bulbs, tight striped corsets, leather-laced top hats, round protruding goggles, and steam machines. In addition, novels like Jules Vernes 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, H.G. Wells Time Machine, and contemporary young adult literature, like Scott Westerfelds Leviathan, are all examples of the science fiction sub-genre referred to as Steampunk.
Attributed to the author K.W. Jeter, the term Steampunk began as a literary reference to describe Victorian era fiction that was future-oriented. The term was later used however, to describe things other than literature such as fashion, movies, television, and décor. Steve Timcack, an artist, and owner of Another Time and Timeless galleries in downtown Fort Myers, which features Steampunk art, jewelry and décor,
describes Steampunk as a Victorian era view of the future using steam powered machines. He says, Think James Bond in the Victorian era.
Timcak has been studying invention since he was a kid, always taking things apart like old rotary phones. He positions the dial in one place and the receiver in another; eventually creating a jewelry box telephone, which of course worked. He became fascinated by brass keys, lightbulbs, antique clocks, and other antiquities that make interesting art mediums.
When he was a teenager in the mid-70s growing up in Chicago, his dad was the superintendent of the old Fine Arts building on Michigan Avenue. The basement was a treasure trove of junk. Bronze work was everywhere. The building used to be a factory for Studebaker coaches but it was expanded and redesigned for artists.
As a teen he snuck around the basement and went through big boxes of keys to see which key opened what. Some doors had never cracked an inch in over 50 years. The basement had a boiler room that looked like two big locomotives underground. Trains are the driving force for the Steampunk culture, and Timcak was impressed, not only by the boiler room of the Fine Arts building, but by the old train yards in Louisiana, which are filled with unlocked train cars. You can walk in, look around and touch objects reflective of another time and another era. Basically, I grew up in Steampunk, so it comes very naturally for me.
Timcak creates art pieces that he sells in his galleries. His work has a distinctive ambience. He designs from his mind, and doesnt mimic the creations of others. His work is a true inventors design, meaning one sees all the mechanisms working behind the glass of his lamps or clock pieces. He uses Edison or Marconi-style bulbs, tubes from defunct MRI machines, old vintage lamp ports and scrap metal, including copper wire or brass. It takes him more time to amass the components from yard sales, thrift stores, and antique shops than it does to build a lamp. In Two Worlds one can see the artistic and electric interchanges between the components beautifully in this lamp creation. Timcaks From the Depths of Time also features nautical themes in this lighted piece. He creates patina finishes on metals to age them but uses modern sockets to juxtapose the images of time. Sometimes he also polishes
metals whatever fits the vision he has for the piece. This particular piece features two turn knobs with a miniature divers helmet and two reproduction Victorian brass stampings. Many of his pieces feature nautical symbols that are inspired by the Jules Verne classic, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. One of the most puzzling of all the symbols is the octopus (oddly enough it is not the squid that is highlighted in the 20,000 Leagues novel). This symbol has a dominate appearance in the Steampunk world, but according to Timcak, its origins are ambiguous.
Not all Steampunk is about glimmer and sass, as it does have philosophical themes that weave in and out of literature and the arts. For example, Timcaks piece The Belfry III incorporates a taxidermic bat incased in the dismantled body of an oak clock. The bat is hanging upside down from an attachment in front of an antique gong. When the clock chimes, the gong makes it louder. I asked him why the name for the piece and he said its based on the old saying, You got bats in your belfry, meaning youre nuts.
Steampunk had a limit to steam-powered machines, but the inventors of today may face equally similar issues that H.G. Wells alluded to over a century ago, but in different areas of science, such as in nuclear technology and biotechnology. There doesnt seem to be much glimmer in cloning sheep, so maybe the fascination with Steampunk brings us to an era of excitement that although might have caused more than a few explosions, it just looks more glamorous.
Luckily for the artist, we can explore the juxtapositions of time through the various mediums that can be found in basements, antique stores, and train yards. These discovers are turned into repurposed pieces that reflect an era of long ago. Yet, the worlds can collide, as artists like to do, so Timcak works on bridging the modern world to Steampunk with his newest creation that takes a computer flash drive and gives it that Steampunk touch by fitting it into an antique key. You can see and purchase Timcaks pieces at Another Time and Timeless galleries located in Downtown Fort Myers.