by Mel Fenson

Steampunk art reflects a nostalgia for artifacts and inventions of the Victorian age of the late 1800s and an interest in modern technology. It is inspired by inventions, ranging from the steam engine, the phonograph, incandescent light bulbs, electric motors, the telegraph, and mechanical farm equipment - to today’s high technology digital devices.

The Steampunk art movement is a mystical genre that originated during the 1980s and early 1990s. It incorporates elements of science, fiction, fantasy, and ancient history. Its nostalgic twist reaches back to the time of the industrial revolution, when steam was used to power machines and extends through today’s space age. Its ingenious designers combine ancient looking mechanical artifacts with modern technical or scientific elements to create works that appear as futuristic technological inventions - reminiscent of the fantastic imaginary scientific inventions described in “The Time Machine” by “H. G. Wells,” and in Jules Verne’s "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea."

Steampunk art can be assembled from almost anything and made to look as if it has a real, but maybe questionable function. Steampunk inventions have been concocted from parts taken from various items, such as antiquated equipment, computers, antique clocks, watches, and even cell phones. Other elements may range from switches, dials, gauges, gears, springs, and wire to parts from old tools, antique machines, and appliances - collected from antique shops to junk yards. Brass, copper, glass, polished wood, engravings and etchings are often used to enhance Steampunk art and to create curious mystical appearances. Steampunk inspired design has also been carried over into the fashion world in clothing and jewelry.

Steampunk designs may be purely non-functional art or sculptures, or they may be actual functional products, such as the custom handcrafted lighting fixtures and illuminated sculptural objects illustrated in this story - as designed by New York artist and steampunk designer, Art Donovan.

Art had previously been the senior designer and head illustrator for Donald Deskey Associates, a top New York graphic design firm, whose founder, Donald Deskey, gained recognition as an Art Deco master and creator of Radio City Music Hall.

Art’s firm, Donovan Design, has handled design projects for major clients, including: Tiffany & Co, in New York, The University of Baltimore, Churchill Downs, Benetti Luxury Yachts in Italy, Four Seasons Resorts Villas in St. Thomas, and the Disney Cruise Lines.

Art draws his ideas and creativity from his interest in steampunk, science, art, museums, design, music, philosophy, astronomy, ancient history, global religions, fashion, and all things technical.

To expand awareness about Steampunk, Art has published a book, “The Art of Steampunk.” It illustrates the fantastical and stunning artwork and ingenious creations from seventeen leading Steampunk artists, whose work was displayed at an exhibition at the Oxford University Museum of the History of Science in the UK. The exhibit was organized by Art Donovan. The museum is famous for housing the world's greatest collection of important scientific artifacts and devices.

As the Steampunk Art movement continues to grow in popularity today, you may come across an I-Phone with a propeller attached to a vacuum tube jutting out of its top and luminescent vibrating copper coils hanging from the bottom. Don’t be alarmed if you do. It will not be an inter-dimensional access device - you may just be observing a Steampunk art creation.

For more information about
Art Donovan, visit his website at:

For more information about
Art Donovan, visit his website at:



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