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Steampunk Comes To Oceanside

Above: Steampunk goggles, a wardrobe staple for steampunk attire.

A steampunk with a tuning fork at 2010 Comic-Con International.
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Above: A steampunk with a tuning fork at 2010 Comic-Con International.

A steampunk gentleman at the Steampunk meet-up held every year at Comic-Con International.
Enlarge this image

Above: A steampunk gentleman at the Steampunk meet-up held every year at Comic-Con International.

Steampunk gadgets are often vintage pieces transformed for another use. Gears are also a common element in the steampunk aesthetic.
Enlarge this image

Above: Steampunk gadgets are often vintage pieces transformed for another use. Gears are also a common element in the steampunk aesthetic.

On Friday night, the Oceanside Museum of Art will step back in time to the Victorian era when steam technology ruled, invention captured the minds of many, and corsets bound plenty of waists. "Dr. Steampunk's Art Extravaganza" is the title of the museum's Art After Dark event taking place this Friday.

Steampunk refers to many things: an art form, a subculture, a style of cosplay, a genre of literature. For the last couple of years, I've been following the steampunk community at Comic-Con. In a blog post I wrote in June of 2009, this is how I described the phenomenon:

"Steampunks are members of a subculture that takes its inspiration from the late 19th century, primarily its Victorian-era dress, technology and spirit of invention. It is the period before electricity was invented and steam engine technology ruled the day, as did an attention to craftsmanship and innovation.

Steampunks are hobbyists and lifestyle enthusiasts dedicated to this period. They dress in period garb (corsets, goggles, gloves, hats, hairpieces, vests) and retrofit or "mod" items (like their computers) to look like they were made in the late 19th century. They invent things. They build weapons, pipes, instruments, and mechanical boxes in the period style. They often incorporate gadgetry, gears, and the materials of the period like brass and copper ("a time before plastic!"). There's a DIY philosophy behind the movement, with the costumes often assembled from thrift store items and recycled materials.

Real period items are prized and incorporated (like goggles), but the invention of something brand new but still distressed and period-looking, is widely praised. The fiction of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells are sources of inspiration, as steampunks often incorporate present day technology and reinterpret it in the context Victorian times."

The best way to get a handle on the aesthetic of steampunks is to check out the photos I took at Comic-Con (see gallery above). For the OMA event, you can expect to see people dressed in period garb (there's a fashion show planned). But this is an art museum after all, and work by Southern California artists will be on display, including the work of local sculptor Greg Brotherton, who I featured in a radio story back in 2009.

Should be a fun night - don't forget your camera!

"Dr. Steampunk's Art Extravaganza" takes place this Friday, November 5th from 7-10pm at the Oceanside Museum of Art in Oceanside.

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