Writer S.J. Chambers said (I’m paraphrasing) that steampunk should be considered an art form in a literary panel we were on together at the first Florida Steampunk Exhibition in Daytona Beach, FL. Why this stuck with me is because I am an artist. Defining myself as that, this chief portion of my persona “artist” what on earth does that mean?

artist |ˈärtist|
noun
a person who produces paintings or drawings as a profession or hobby.
• a person who practices any of the various creative arts, such as a sculptor, novelist, poet, or filmmaker.
• a person skilled at a particular task or occupation: a surgeon who is an artist with the scalpel.
• a performer, such as a singer, actor, or dancer.
• [ with modifier ] informal a habitual practitioner of a specified reprehensible activity: a con artist | rip-off artists.
ORIGIN early 16th cent. (denoting a master of the liberal arts): from French artiste, from Italian artista, from arte art, from Latin ars, art- .

As the definition  by the app on my Apple dashboard points out, this word has various connotations. For the medium of steampunk, to be a steampunk artist, one must understand steampunk as art. So, art, that nebulous thing we can never quite define no matter how many dictionary apps we look at. In my mind as a practitioner of art, art is the perfect blend of the organic and the composed. (Even that sounds nebulous)

Let me elaborate. The organic portion of an art is its ability to change, adapt and become individualized for each practitioner while retaining the overall premise of the initial art form. Foe example – painters work with some form of liquid media which carries pigment. Steampunk artists work with Victorian themes and whatever else their imagination/experience provides. This weekend at the FSEE I saw everything from reenacting costumes for a steampunk version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol to a mobile replica of the Time Machine by H.G. Wells. The varied costume and even folks without personas were made welcome and accepted for their presence as much as for their art.

The crux of this is that steampunk as an art needs really to fulfill, in my mind, a few precepts:

– Spanning generations and cultures.

– Open to varied interpretation by practitioners.

– Available to be accessible to those people outside of the direct practice of the art.

Steampunk truly accomplishes this by not only the examples I’ve cited, but by its growth. As we watch its insurgence to the wider market, it will change and morph and become a different but valuable portion of our culture. I am watching that happen, but that, dearest readers, is another blog post.

Please think about the above comments and reply as needed. I’d love your input on this discussion.

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