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“Simply Steampunk”

This juried art exhibition is tied to the Morris Museum’s Murtogh D. Guinness Collection

Wednesday, February 20, 2019
Pterence, The Pteranodon

The Morris Museum in Morristown, New Jersey plans a March 15 opening for “Simply Steampunk,” a juried exhibition featuring 18 kinetic sculptures by 12 contemporary artists. Running through August 11, it’s the second installment in “A Cache of Kinetic Art,” a four-year series of exhibitions associated with the museum’s renowned Murtogh D. Guinness Collection of Mechanical Musical Instruments and Automata.

“The artwork on view ranges in scale from jewelry to room-sized installations, and in scope from traditional retrofuturistic sculpture to more broadly-interpreted light and soundscapes,” states a press release from the museum.

Shown above is “Pterence, The Pteranodon,” one of three works in the exhibition by David Bowman of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania.

Other pieces can be viewed in the gallery below. You can see some of them in action in this YouTube video.

The Murtogh D. Guinness Collection consists of 750 mechanical instruments and automata from the late 16th through early 20th centuries, plus 5000 examples of programmed media, including player piano rolls and pinned cylinders. About 150 pieces are in the permanent exhibit. Early automata were inspirations for clockwork robots in steampunk art and fiction.

The museum website includes videos of items from the collection.

Featured Artists

In addition to Bowman, “Simply Steampunk” features works by Chris Cole of Bend, Oregon; Ken Draim of Pittsburgh; Kyle Dries of Glen Oaks, New York; Bradley N. Litwin of Philadelphia; LoHiFi Productions (Chris Little and Theofani Pitsiavas) of Halifax, Nova Scotia; Kenneth MacBain of Morristown; Mike Richison of Ocean Township, New Jersey; Will Rockwell of West Orange, New Jersey; Walter Rossi of New York City; and Matthew Steinke of Austin, Texas.

The jurors were steampunk artist Brett King; Kinetic Art Organization co-founder Rein Triefeldt; and New York Institute of Technology professor Ann Aptaker. King, a frequent guest at steampunk conventions, is also founder of AutomataCon, a bi-annual convention for automata enthusiasts. The museum hosted the convention in 2018.

Visitors will have an opportunity to vote for their favorite piece from the exhibition in the “People’s Choice Award.” Voting is open between March 15 and June 30. The winner will be announced on July 2.

Special events

The museum has scheduled some special events related to the exhibition:

VIP Preview. This exhibition preview is reserved for museum members and the press. Museum executive director Cleveland Johnson will present opening remarks. It’s scheduled for Thursday, March 14, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Opening Day. Opening day activities include live demonstrations of the kinetic artworks by Guinness Collection curator Michele Marinelli and conservator Jere Ryder. Bowman will also be there to discuss his work. It's scheduled for Friday, March 15, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free for members and free with museum admission for non-members.

Tea and Treasures: Simply Steampunk, a Curator’s View. Marinelli will discuss kinetic art and offer live demonstrations. Light refreshments will be served. It’s scheduled for March 20 at 2 p.m. Cost is $10 for museum members and $15 for non-members. The fee includes museum admission.

Steampunk 101: Scorsese’s Hugo with Curator’s Tour. The museum’s Bickford Theatre will present a big-screen showing of Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, followed by a tour of the exhibition. Set in 1930s Paris, Hugo is a critically acclaimed film about a boy’s attempts to repair a broken automaton. The event is scheduled for Sunday, April 7, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free for museum members. The cost for non-members is $8, which includes museum admission.

Curator Tour for Upper Level Members. A tour and live demonstrations for museum members at the Friend ($175) level or higher. Exhibiting artist Will Rockwell will be there to discuss his work. It’s scheduled for Wednesday, May 8, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Build an Automaton! Children’s Workshop. Kids will assemble and decorate a kinetic sculpture that they can take home. It’s scheduled for Sunday, June 16, 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. The fee is $15 per child, which includes one kit. A parent must accompany the child but will get free admission. Advance reservation is required. Phone the museum at (973) 971-3706.

Last Look: Behind the Scenes of Simply Steampunk. This final tour of the exhibition will be presented by Guinness Collection staff. Bowman will return to discuss his work. It’s scheduled for Thursday, August 8, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Admission is free for museum members and $15 for non-members.

Future Exhibitions

The first installment in the kinetic art series, “Curious Characters,” ran from March 16 through June 20 last year. The third installment, “Tiny Intricacies,” runs March 13 through July 12, 2020, followed by “Timeless Movements,” March 12 through July 11, 2021. Prospectuses and entry forms for the future exhibitions are on the museum website.

The Morris Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Admission costs $10 for adults, and $7 for seniors and children 3 to 18 years old. It’s free for museum members, active military personnel and kids under 3. On the second and third Thursday of each month, it’s open until 8 p.m., and admission is “Pay What You Wish” from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. The museum is located at 6 Normandy Heights Road, Morristown, NJ 07960, phone (973) 971-3700.


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