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Steampunks, Start Your Engines

An automotive museum brings steampunk-inspired art cars and other works to San Diego

Wednesday, June 13, 2018
Time Machine

Whether by land, sea or airship, steampunks have good reason to travel to Southern California this summer and fall as the San Diego Automotive Museum hosts “Steampunk with a Retro Twist,” an exhibition that opened June 8 and runs through October 7. The museum is known for its historic automobiles and motorcycles, but the exhibition focuses on works by contemporary artists.

An opening reception is scheduled for Thursday, June 21 at 6 p.m.

Many of the works are street-legal vehicles that look like they were driven off a science-fiction movie set. L.A.-based metal sculptor Baron Margo contributed several vehicles, including “Metamorphosis” (seen below) and "Rocket Roadster." Other highlights include a Victorian time machine by Richard Ingalls (seen above), with staging by Andy Cameron.

Los Angeles artist Gregg Fleischman created a vehicle made largely from wood, as well as a six-foot model of his double-helix staircase and a large wooden stucture, all reflecting his geometrical approach to design. “Aquatrope” by Richard Wilks is a mobile sculpture “created to explore how intertwined we are to water,” the artist says.


"We also have some found-object steampunk drones by Roberto Vivar, and a Steampunk Pirate 'Mutiny' by Mike Anderson, as well as a steampunk remote-controlled robot rover called AR DUO," says Pandora Paul, the museum’s curator and education director. The latter was created by Mike Fulkerson, the San Dieguito adult school welding class, and the AXR maker group (Alliance of eXtraordinary Rebels).

The exhibition also includes Dan Jones’ Tinkerbots and numerous works by self-described “Steam Monk” Jeffrey Steorts. Many of Steorts’ pieces have spiritual themes. Other featured artists include Jeff Jones, Michael Leeds, Marko Djoric, and Ken Whitney. There’s also a steam tractor and a display of rare Jules Verne editions from the Keeline Collection. "Models of the Nautilus and Tom Swift's Airship are also on display from the Keeline Collection," Paul says.

In addition, Abimelec Arellano "made an amazing image of a steampunked Citreon 2CV," she says. And there are panels showing a 50-foot dirigible made by the Airpusher Consortium for Burning Man. "I couldn't fit the creation in the museum, but I thought the endeavor was worthy of coverage so we have panels discussing the build with images," Paul says.

In general, “we wanted to make it oriented toward technology and vehicles as much as possible,” she says.

As for the “Retro Twist” in the title, she notes that many people have their own idea of what qualifies as steampunk, so this exhibition is “kind of steampunk forward.”

Graphics for the exhibition were created by San Diego designer Paul Reese.

The museum hosts three temporary exhibitions each year in addition to its permanent collection. “We consider ourselves to be an automotive culture museum,” Paul says. It’s not just about the vehicles, “but also the culture based on the vehicles.”

About 70 percent of the museum’s visitors are from outside the San Diego area, she says.

Museum admission is $10 for adults; $6 for seniors, military and students; and $4 for kids 6 to 15 years old. Kids under 5 are admitted free. The museum is located at 2080 Pan American Plaza in San Diego’s Balboa Park.

The gallery below provides a closer look at the exhibition. Photos are used by permission of the museum.

This story has been updated with additional info about the exhibits and clarifications/corrections to some of the captions in the gallery.

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