10 Questions with Art Donovan, Steampunk Artist, Designer, Curator

Art Donovan at home in Southampton
Art Donovan at home in Southampton, Photo: Oliver Peterson

Few outside fans of the genre may know that the Hamptons is home to one of the most important figures in the steampunk art, fashion and design movement—an anachronistic merging of Victorian aesthetics, technology and science fiction—which has been gathering…steam for decades.

Southampton lighting designer Art Donovan was instrumental in bringing steampunk to true mainstream prominence after he mounted a group show exploring the movement in Bridgehampton back in 2008 and followed it with the world’s first steampunk museum exhibition at the Museum of the History of Science in Oxford, England the following year. In 2014, he helped produce a third exhibition at Seoul National Museum in South Korea.

Donovan, who has authored two books on the subject, and made a wonderful collection of his own steampunk-inspired pieces, just launched his most recent steampunk exhibition, Odd Beauty: The Techno-Eccentric World of Steampunk, right here at the Southampton Arts Center. The show, featuring 20 brilliant artists, opened to a packed house and universal acclaim on September 23, and it will remain on view through November 12.

This seemed like the perfect occasion to have Donovan answer our standard set of 10 Questions. He joins a vaunted group of notable luminaries, such as Alec Baldwin, Ann Brashares, Cesar Millan, Nicky Hilton Rothschild, Gilbert Gottfried and many more.

See Odd Beauty: The Techno-Eccentric World of Steampunk at the Southampton Arts Center (25 Jobs Lane) in Southampton through November 12. For more info visit southamptonartscenter.org.

1. Favorite book?
Plum Island by Nelson DeMille.

 2. The last thing that took your breath away?
Alan Silvestri’s theme music from, Castaway [Robert Zemeckis’ 2000 film starring Tom Hanks]. I’ve listened to it hundreds of times and it still amazes me. I’m a huge fan of composers of film scores—guys like Silvestri, Carter Burwell, Hans Zimmer, Danny Elfman, Johnny Greenwood, T Bone Burnett and Michael Kamen.

3. The last thing that made you cry?
Putting our beloved 15-year-old golden retriever Jake to sleep. No need to describe this to anyone who has been through it.

 4. It’s the eve of your execution… What would be your last meal?
Cuban food from my wife Leslie’s kitchen.

5. Something worth fighting for?
Art and love.

6. Something worth giving up?
Wasting the most precious resource—water.

7. Spend an afternoon with anyone—alive or dead—who would it be?
Filippo Brunelleschi [Renaissance designer/architect]

8. An interesting object in your home or studio?
My tools. I’ve used them forever. They’re so simple and they accomplish so much.

9. Last film you watched?
Leslie and I are both huge film enthusiasts and watch so many, I just can’t remember. So the answer for me would be the one I do remember: Rams [Hrútar], the 2015 Icelandic drama/ dark comedy. 

10. Who is your favorite artist?
I have 20 of them! You can actually see their work up close now at Odd Beauty: The Techno-Eccentric World of Steampunk at the Southampton Arts Center.


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