Welcome back to The Jewels of Apator, a biweekly column from Ann & Jeff VanderMeer about the intersection between art and the fantastic. In La Jolla, California, a very unusual art exhibit called Fantastic Contraption has been on display most of the summer. The best way to think of the aesthetic impulse behind this exhibit is as a meshing of the organic and the inorganic. Hosted by The Device Gallery (founded by Gregory and Amy Brotherton), it features the work of, among others, Mike Libby, H.R. Giger, Kazuhiko Nakamura, Ashley Wood, Nemo Gould, and Gregory Brotherton himself.
Eagle-eyed io9 readers will recognize some of these artists from posts run earlier this year. From Libby's beetles with clockwork innards to Wayne Martin Belger's cameras with embedded dragonflies, the exhibit is a dialogue between natural and unnatural worlds. Terms like "post-industrial surrealism," "mechanical animism," and "visual debris" also help define Fantastic Contraption. Some indication of the non-traditional slant of the exhibit can be found in Beetle Repo Man Mike Libby's answer to the question of influences: "Bradbury, Italo Calvino, Umberto Eco. Their influence is not direct, as I do not see myself as an artist who illustrates or diagrams the ideas put forth by a writer. Though I admire their literary agility in describing situations and visual details, I like Bradbury's metaphors, and Calvino's intricacies." In terms of SF, Libby in particular has created some unique approaches through art: "I made a piece that is a timeline of all the times I've seen a time travel movie. This is overtly a real map based on my chronological experience of Science Fiction and how it prompted me to think (fantasize) about time travel. So here the base foundation of this project is SF which prompts fantastical thoughts through empirical display." The influence of that now nearly dirty word "steampunk" has perhaps never been so succinctly expressed, either: "For me, a gear stirs the imagination more than a circuit or diode, you can imagine it moving and turning, causing movement and turning in other things." The Fantastic Contraption exhibit opened in July and ran through early September. If you didn't make it to La Jolla between to see it, check out the gallery that runs with this feature, and the cool accompanying book from IDW Publishing. It's beautifully designed, of course. Fantastic Contraption [via Device Gallery]