Sunday, March 6, 2011

Geoffrey Houghton's "Steamfolk"

Annie “Londonderry” Cohen Kopchovsky was the first woman to ride a bicycle around the world during 1894. Little known is her later attempt to ride the length of the globe from South America to Victoria Island, Canada. Here in 1898, Annie makes her way across the east edge of the Atacama Desert on her Romalea guttata inspired custom tricycle. King Vulture Percival offers little and eats many, while primate Balthazar frequently displays ill temperaments due to the relentless sweltering days. Annie tries to convince herself "I can do anything that any man can do."

I started creating steampunk jewelry quite by accident. It was fun and creative in a different way from my traditional jewelry. I liked that I was able to expose those beautiful vintage pocket watch plates and gears and show off the skill and artistry of the past. Back then I had no idea of the enormity of the steampunk movement. Artists dedicated to this genre create whole worlds with their painted or three dimensional art where surreal characters have fantastic adventures.

Geoffrey Houghton has created a world where his "Steamfolk" live. But unlike the dark worlds of warrior machines, his is bright and colorful and are depictions of people who existed in real life.

Edward Law, 1st Earl of Ellenborough, often found time away from his political career to enjoy egg sporting. In 1827 Ellenborough partook on a Great Auk egg hunting trip in St Kilda, Scotland with his chivalrous greyhound Ponto. Back home, Ellenborough's yokemate, Jane was eager to cook the Auk eggs into a Beothuks pudding delicacy that was received with great delight at their various gala events. Jane forced an unstable relationship as Lord and Lady Ellenborough were divorced by Act of Parliament in 1830. Ellenborough died at his seat, Southam House, near Cheltenham, in December 1871, aged 81.

Geoff can occasionally be seen at art shows in the area, which is where I first met him and his characters. He is originally from Monson, MA. Having started as a watercolor artist, he discovered that illustrative style painting allowed him to express himself in more bold and colorful ways. His "whimsical characters portray a different time, technology, and outlandish fashion".

In 1876, the young aeronaut Elizabeth Ihling made two balloon ascensions at the celebration for the Centennial Fair of the Centre County Agricultural Society. Little known is her 1887 return for a repeat performance. With the help of her feathered friends, Lizzie braves a morning April chill while surveying the land around the fairgrounds prior to her departure.

Geoff Houghton's work will also be on display locally at Wall Talk Art & Design on Pleasant St. in Northampton, MA.  You can find out more about what inspires him and where more of his paintings are currently being shown on his website.

Prints can be purchased from his shop on Etsy.

If Jules Verne were writing today his work would be considered steampunk. Steampunk envisions a world of futuristic innovations created from the machines and technology of the Victorian Era when steam power was still being used. Steampunk art repurposes the old in new ways. The prose creates an alternate history through speculative fiction or fantasy. Cherie Priest, an author of steampunk fiction, refers to it as "retro futuristic."

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