Bob Eckstein

Bob Eckstein
New York City, New York,
February 27
Publisher of Today's
Snowman expert, author of The History of the Snowman and cartoonist for the New Yorker, Reader's Digest, Wall Street Journal and others. Twitter; snowmanexpert


Editor’s Pick
JANUARY 20, 2010 4:21PM

The First Major Steampunk Show

Rate: 35 Flag



Not only was this the first museum exhibition of Steampunk art but it was the most popular event the Museum of the History of Science has ever had. The show is in Oxford, England and up until February 21st for those in the area. 

  The press is calling Steampunk one of the coolest new “thangs.”

For me, Steampunk is one of the more vibrant 3-D art movements, bridging pop culture aesthetics found in cinema and the fantastic gadgets consistently churning out with the affection for things of yesterday. I think when times are hard art sometimes looks back in history to more exciting yet simpler times, in this case the ornate Victorian times. I’m most excited when the object's functionality is not compromised and it blurs the lines of art and science. But this video does a better job of explaining Steampunk;




Like many other artists, I started making stuff in this style before there was a name for it, in my case it was 1982 as a kid listening for the first time to Thomas Dolby’s Golden Age of the Wireless and his incorporating history with art. Later my influences, like many of the Steampunk artists, were Blade Runner and Jules Verne (in 2000 I honeymooned in Snæfellsjökull, Iceland, the site of his A Journey to the Center of the Earth).

Thomas Dolby 25 years later, 2009.
steampunk frankenstein computer 1 269x480
8ft tall desktop computer.
I’m back in London now working on my next book, recovering from kidney stones and hitting flea markets looking for junk for my next Steampunk project (I’m looking for, specifically, old magnifying glasses to place in front of turn-of-the-century candles sconces. Examples of my own interior design can be found at my website Smartass Ideas For the Home and this feature about my “Low-Tide” office in Mac Life magazine written by OSer Lonnie Lazar.

I’ve meet a few great OS people in person (friends like Lauren Dorsee Dillon aka Pretend Farmer, Liz Emrich, Connor aka Mortimer Hayden Smyth), but there are many others I also wish I had the opportunity to meet and I’m sorry that Gary Justis was not with me at this Steampunk show. If you’re familiar with his amazing work here, you’ll understand why would have loved to hear his impressions of this work.


   The last snowman in London.

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I love this, Bob. I was unfamiliar with this movement and now feel like scouring the streets to find material to build something...anything. Glad you're feeling better. I love London, I hope you're haivng a great time and look forward to hearing more about your book project. Cheers, mate!
Bob, I saw your “Low-Tide” office in Mac Life by Lonnie not too long ago and am really fascinated by what everyone is doing in this art movement. Looks like a lot of time is spent simply searching for the elements needed to make a piece, then there is the time involved in putting it altogether! Thanks for this fascinating look at the various pieces made in the Steampunk "genre."
I've been quite familiar with the '80s science fiction movement. But didn't know about the art. This is cool. Thanks for sharing, Bob.
This is wonderful, Bob. The Wallace and Grommit-like punkers, the dog, and particularly the desktop computer (I'd kill a Republican for that ;-)). I also consider a lot of Victoriana to be a part of steampunk, corsets and mufflers and long gloves, oh my. I've been planning and making all three and wondering what's next (swords and flasks hidden in canes and attire to start). I am looking forward to the next book and envying your time in London. The kidney stones, however, I can live without. I hope you are on the mend or, better yet, completely recovered.

BTW, sorry I will not see you at Woodloch. Lauren Dillon Disease has made me rather immobile these days and cross-country travel is out of the question right now. Build a snowman for me, my friend.

Great post! I love Steampunk, but my 14y/o niece tells me that Cyberpunk, an offshoot embraced by the young, is cooler.
Depressing to see that The Snowmen lost their war against Steampunk. Otherwise, holy crap! Great pics.
Bob, this is fascinating! Some of the pieces, especially the masks/headgear seem vaguely "Lovecraftian". Really cool, but also kind of creepy.
Oh, and, kidney stones, yikes! Hope you're feeling better. I hear those things really hurt!
thanks for reminding me how jealous i am of your office. thanks a lot.
Thank you everyone for the kind words and for stopping by to see the neat pictures.

Lauren, hope you feel better. Good luck.
Steampunk is a whole new world to me. Sorry to hear about the kidney stones, I had one once and don't envy you.
I look at this and immediately think of Gary Justis. Isn't he the original Steampunk artist?
Thanks for explaining this type of art to me. I was mystified a few months ago when my daughter said she wanted to decorate her room as steampunk. Is this the same show your wife is part of? It looks really interesting.
I credit "Myst" for introducing a lot of us to Steampunk. Go back and play the Myst games and you'll see it.
I ADORE everything steampunk! Thanks for the article! :D
Yes, there are definitely elements of Myst, Jules Verne, & HP Lovecraft in steampunk. There's a broad spectrum between light & dark in steampunk, as there is in Victorian literature.

Check out Beats Antique, a great steampunk band.

Go to & search "steampunk" for a peek at what the artisans are creating for their steam-hungry fans. And step right up, ladies and gents, to your new obsession...:}
Thanks, Con. Worse has passed.

Lisa, well, I'll wait to hear his thoughts but his work isn't Steampunk and to his credit is harder to define and doesn't follow any trend as far as I can see.

Hi Dorinda. My wife is part of the very well received show at the PM Gallery in London, Beware of Embroidery. She is a book artist. While there the Tate bought three of her pieces.

Sioux, you are absolutely correct and I should have included Myst although there are a couple of other influences I left out, too. It depends on the artist and for me I had those games (Myst II as well) in my desk drawer unopened for years and didn't look at them until years later. But I was painting in a Steampunk style using layered INTs and dyes around 1980. The first Myst game was released in 1993.

Thanks, Nuriah! HP Lovecraft? I'll have to check that out. Yes, last night I was checking out Steampunk Home (which is a bit of a stretch at times.).

Yes, this piece could have been the length of War & Peace but I try to keep everything on Open Salon short.
I am enlightened. And my daughter loves the book -- thanks again Bob.
To clarify, I didn't think to take that Steampunk sort of thing 3-D and to objects until Thomas Dolby came to the US and played Radio City Hall in 1984. Up until then it was strictly flat work.
Ooo, great to hear your daughter enjoyed my book. Thanks, again.
Bob, Thank you for the kind mention! I'm really happy you wrote about this important movement. If we look back at the movie "Brazil", we see some similar imagery. At this point in history, we need a little fanciful manufacture of strange objects to offset the effects of Modernism. I think perhaps the Steampunk movement is one of the youngest progeny of Post-Modernism. I had a student last year who was involved in the movement with his work. I hope to do a piece on his work in the next few months. This is an inspiration to delve further into this kind of imagery. Its so good to see the fanciful imagination at play again!
thank you for this! I absolutely love that movement/art/sensibility and wish I had a big space so I could purchase steampunk art and just gaze at it... Do you think this show will come to the states?? Thanks again for your sharp eye.
This all springs from such an interesting place in the creative imagination. It's not something I think of often, but once reminded of it, like to sit and ponder.
Thanks to Lisa....Some of my earliest work might allude to some of the forms in Steampunk at present. When I made the work in the late 70's, I was thinking of the work taking its inspiration from the machine experiments of Marcel Duchamp. A few Steampunk artists have told me my early work influenced them, and I t hink that lies in the attention to small details in the physical work, i.e., connectors, hardware, optics, motors and so on.
Very cool--I love the whole Steampunk vibe!

And thanks for including a snowman shot.
I too was not familiar with this, but I'm absolutely intrigued by it. Amazing pieces - makes me want to learn more about it!
Oh... WOW! I want to go there. I want to make things!
This looks so cool. I wish I were in England to check it out.

I'm familiar with assemblage and enjoyed doing some myself but this takes it to a whole other level. I didn't know the whys and wherefores of the steampunk movement, or the victorian era background. What a kick! I used have a subscription to Leonardo that was all about combining the arts and sciences, and the fact that some these are functional inventions is very cool indeed!
Very, very cool! And I find it oddly serendipitous that you mentioned Thomas Dolby, circa 1980's, as I'm listening to Brian Enos Before and After Science, and John Foxxs' Metalmatic, as I review this. Kinda appropriate, don't ya thunk?
the best steampunk museum is the Henry Ford in Dearborn, Mi.
Bob, this was just fascinating and I loved the steampunk examples, especially in contrast with the "last snowman in London." Priceless.
Let's not forget the cultural history of Steampunk - it's too cool to leave behind. The photos in this blog very much bring to mind the late 1960's TV show, "The Wild,Wild West. It was the first time in my life that I was introduced to the concept, for which we probably had no name at the time. Steam was indeed the method of power for some mighty imaginative and futuristic inventions. Villains seemed to have the patent on evil steampunk, which is what made them so danged villainous. West and Gordon had to figure out how to overcome the villain's "technology" with some of their own or simply outwit some very campy bad guys. This show was clearly a descendent of Poe, Jules Verne and HG Wells and in turn is definitely a grand-daddy for the current trend. Unfortunately, it only ran for 3.5 years, so there aren't a wealth of re-runs available. Maybe we could soon see a re-emergence of those re-runs.
I love steampunk. My netbook has had two brain transplants and I think it's time to lose the boring white skin. I wish I were in London to view the collection, but you've given me a wonderful tour right here.
Thank you so much for making me aware of something I feel I should have absolutely already known about. I love this kind of work. League of Extroadinary Gentlemen is a great example of a film that showcases Steampunk.
Oh...I LOVE a literary movement. I really wasn't aware that it was so vibrant an artistic category as well. How captivating!
this is great!! hadn't heard of this movement. However, I am mighty surprised no one has mentioned Tim Burton here. Going back to "Edward Scissorhands" and especially "Sleepy Hollow," many of the pieces shown look like Burton characters. I love it. Thanks
Yes. I don't know where to start. So I will rate it for now.
I am coming back... this is interesting.
STEAM-PUNK... Which I would like to describe as a "Tramps" vision of Freedom, Power and Potential... Transcending upon his "Tamp Steamer"... Through time and space of coarse. Never the less, a wonderful vision of the old "American Dream" in a new way. A "New World Vision". Not to be confused with" New World Order"... We don't get our power from other people but rather, we get our "Charge On" from the one glorious space between us... You know, the same space between our molecule that guide DNA, defines our form and fuels our fun... The space between us, is the land we share. We are all indigenous...!
Wow, I've had a few glasses of wine, feel sick and tired of a sick and tired day, watched a bad movie that could have been made by monkeys, was ready to give up on the day, go to sleep, and then you went and made me learn something about art. Whatever, art educator for the hopeless at heart.
This show seems to be very well done. I am impressed every time when I've seen that this type of show. hotel ieftin bucuresti