Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Strap on your goggles and lace for the Steampunk exhibit at the new Santa Cruz Institute for Contemporary Arts  Gallery at the Tannery.

Long a gleam in arts entrepreneur Kirby Scudder's eye, the SCICA has been a floating world of artistic ideas, a cyclone of creative energy that finally has a permanent place to touch down, a brand new gallery in the Tannery studio complex. Kirby has partnered with Co-Director, artist and arts administrator Ann Hazels in the new SCICA venture, which also includes office space and a gift shop adjoining the spacious gallery.

The inaugural exhibit, Steampunk, launched earlier this month and runs through the end of December. It's a back-to-the-future, retro fantasy exhibition of sculpture, prints, painting, photography, and wearable art celebrating the merger of Victorian/Edwardian sensibilities (Machine Age clockwork, gears and cogs; top hats and corsets) with futuristic fantasy. (The shorthand definition of "steampunk" is Victorian sci-fi.)

The alcove at the gallery entrance gets you in the mood with these two displays of fantasy headgear from an artist calling himself killbuck. What I found especially cool about the piece on the left is that it contains no real metal (except, possibly, those eyepiece dials); it's constructed entirely out of found and recycled objects like plastic and foam.

The diverse pieces inside include fanciful photography and found-object sculpture from Robbie Schoen, and woodwork gear box wall pieces by Michael Zelver.

I loved metal sculptor Thomas Ramey's "Piston Bat," a wall piece made of recycled metal. In Ramey's elegant  3D sculpture, "Drilling," a globe of the world is suspended in a man-made cage; the piece is made out of recycled auto parts.

(Recycled materials is also a running theme throughout the show, from Jack Howe's found object-studded bedspring piece, "At the Gates of Redemption," to Geoffrey Nelson's life-sized "Steampunk Starfighter" outfit.)

Some pieces have only a tenuous connection to the theme. Diego Rios' graphic angel prints in muted colors are beautiful, but don't necessarily convey a steampunk ethic. Outside of a few corsets, neither do Nelson's "Storyville Series" of contemporary photos of women posed in the style of the notorious turn-of-the-century New Orleans red-light district.

Jenny Markowitz's painting on a recycled door, "The Visionary,"doesn't really mesh with the theme either.

But her companion painted door, "The Lovers," is spot-on with its image on an embracing couple in full regalia; it could easily be the Tarot card of that name in a steampunk deck!

The SCICA Gallery is located at #127 in The Tannery, the front corner space in the commercial studio building across from the live-work artists lofts.  The Steampunk show runs through December 30. Gallery hours are Wednesday-Sunday, 11 am to 6 pm.

And if you like what you see, consider signing up for an inaugural membership in the SCICA.


  1. Thanks for the mention!

    Diego Marcial Rios- artist

    I do not think you liked my artwork very much but, it is always nice to get mentioned in reviews regardless!

  2. Oh, no, Diego, I think your prints are beautiful and mysterious! I'm not sure if they belong in a "steampunk" show, but they are really lovely.