Tag Archive | "East Hampton Library"

Art Donovan

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Art Donovan

Art Donovan is a lighting designer, curator and the author of a book about Steampunk. He spoke about the movement and how he learned to see beauty in electrical wires.

So what is Steampunk?

It’s been around forever, but what we now call Steampunk only really caught fire on the internet about seven or eight years ago. There were just one or two artists and they posted their work, which is when I discovered it. There was a fellow named Rich Nagy designing Steampunk computer keyboards: he’d take desktop keyboards and modify them with carved mahogany and brass and nickel and he’d create a keyboard that looked like it was made in the 1800s, and it was kind of ironic, to have a high-tech device looking like an analog machine. It caught my eye, because in the world of design, modern contemporary styling, mid-century styling has been pretty much the status quo for so long. And to see people getting into this type of design based on ornate classicism, it was a shock and it was also a big thrill because it opened up a whole world of possibilities for design that you just couldn’t address before this. If you mentioned anything from before 1940, it was not considered anything you’d want to cover. So it opened up everyone’s eyes to a new form of design. And boy, it really took off.

What do you think it is about Steampunk that broke people out of the mid-century design rut?

I think it was a perfect storm of a lot of cultural things that were going on. The biggest element was that although it’s very beautiful people had actually grown weary of simple designs like the iPhone that are so clean and sleek—that uncluttered design. And believe it or not young people had actually grown weary of it too because that’s all they’d ever used—anybody 35 and under, that’s what they grew up with, clean, crisp design. They were ready for something new, and the new turned out to be hand-wrought, ornate-mechanical-looking designs. In other words, the philosophical opposite of everything Steve Jobs had stood for in terms of design. But there’s another element that strongly influenced the popularity—the Maker Movement, doing things by hand, deconstructing things, making things yourself was also growing in great popularity. And so that was new too, because that hadn’t really been addressed since the 1950s, when books like Popular Mechanics were big, where we dropped the Maker Movement concepts for many decades. So the Maker Movement fed into Steampunk, and Steampunk helped feed the Maker Movement, and those two elements really combined, plus the ability to see something instantly on the internet. The immediacy of the internet gave them access.

And so how did you get involved in Steampunk?

I’ve been an artist and designer, full-time as a profession since 1975, which is a long time. I started out in package design, then going to advertising and industrial design in New York City. And then in 1990, my wife Leslie and I started our company called Donovan Designs for lighting. Product design became the focus of our work, and when I discovered Steampunk it played perfectly into what we do, which is custom lighting. It really leant itself to a new style of lighting design that hadn’t really been addressed—combining something vintage and antique and industrial, and doing it in lighting. That really wasn’t done. The love of seeing gears and cogs and springs, and being able to understand how something worked by looking at it, that became a real drive for Steampunkers. Just to give you a simple example: in terms of lamps, the thing you always had to used to do was make sure you hid the electric wire inside the lamp. Sometimes, in particular designs, that was very hard to do. With Steampunk, you make the wiring decorative and it’s actually part of the aesthetic. That was a great relief, to free the electrical wire from the lamp itself. You take the parts of the unit that were not considered aesthetically pleasing, and with modification you can make it a beneficial part of the design. It was very liberating. That’s the word, it was liberating. And just delightful.

Mr. Donovan will be giving a talk about Steampunk as part of East Hampton Library’s Author Talk series this Saturday, February 28, from 1 to 3 p.m. East Hampton Library is located at 159 Main Street in East Hampton Village. For more information call (631) 324-0222.





One Hundred Writers Under One Tent for East Hampton Library’s 10th Annual Authors Night

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Philip Keith talks to an attendee at East Hampton Library's 9th Annual Authors Night in 2013. Photo courtesy of East Hampton Library.

Philip Keith talks to an attendee at East Hampton Library’s 9th Annual Authors Night in 2013. Photo courtesy of East Hampton Library.

By Tessa Raebeck

With bookstores closing their doors nationwide, one event continues to honor the feeling of a hardcover in your hand and the smell of fresh pages, rather than the glare of yet another screen. The 10th Annual Authors Night at East Hampton Library gathers a collection of over 100 celebrated authors in all genres — and thousands of their books — under one tent.

The library’s largest fundraising event, Authors Night started in 2005 with a few local authors, and has quickly grown to include some of the top writers from around the world. In previous years, the number of participants swelled to several hundred, but the library has scaled back to around 100 to “keep the focus on quality rather than quantity,” PR representative Keri Lamparter said.

On Saturday, August 9 at 5 p.m. at Gardiner Farm in East Hampton, newcomers and longtime participants, writers of cookbooks and suspense thrillers, and winners of Pulitzer Prizes and National Book Awards will sign books and talk shop with an expected 2,500 attendees.

“It’s the hugest book singing you’ve ever seen,” Ms. Lamparter said.

James McBride will sign copies of “The Good Lord Bird,” a comedic novel about the life of notorious abolitionist John Brown that won the 2013 National Book Award.

“I wanted to do an event that was book related and not just a dinner party or not just a gala, to celebrate the library,” said Sheila Rogers, who started Authors Night 10 years ago and remains on board as an event co-chair (and is currently unable to put down “The Good Lord Bird.”) “and [also] really engage the authors that are in our community. Then we expanded to authors from all over the world.”

Most of the writers share a personal connection to the East Hampton Library and many of the books being shared Saturday were written in the library’s study carrels.

Landscape historian and Sag Harbor resident Mac Griswold did the research for her biography about the Sylvester Manor on Shelter Island, “The Manor: Three Centuries at a Slave Plantation on Long Island,” at the library.

Broadcast journalist and author Lynn Sherr, who has written several books on prominent female American figures like Susan B. Anthony, lives in East Hampton. She will bring her latest book, “Sally Ride: America’s First Woman in Space,” published this year, to Authors Night.

“With every book, she makes sure that the East Hampton Library gets a copy of her book—and we’re so happy to have her,” Ms. Rogers said.

Two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner and part-time East Hampton resident Bob Caro, “the most wonderful author,” according to Ms. Rogers, is returning this year with a selection of his work. Best known for his biographies, the journalist and author will sign copies of “The Power Broker,” his 1974 biography of Robert Moses, who planned much of New York City, and “The Years of Lyndon Johnson,” a five-volume (four of which are written thus far) biography of the former president.

“They’re big books,” said Ms. Rogers, “they’re not a weekend read at the beach. You really learn something from these books and you learn something by going to a dinner party when he speaks, because he is probably the most knowledgeable person about Lyndon Johnson that exists on the planet.”

For an additional price, ticket holders can attend private dinner parties with a selection of authors at homes across the East End. With dinners at 32 private homes, it is “the largest simultaneous dinner party in East Hampton happening all at one time,” Ms. Lamparter said.

With every single book donated by its publishing company, the proceeds from Authors Night account for over 10-percent of the library’s operating budget.

“It’s really great because all of the proceeds go to the library and, obviously, the library is a non-profit and a really great cause,” Ms. Lamparter said. “And it also speaks to the literary tradition out here, the artists/writers literary tradition.”

“The most exciting thing,” added Ms. Rogers, “is really seeing how the writers feel about the event, how they love it, how important it is for them to get this exposure—to be part of it and to support the library. For me, it’s all about supporting the East Hampton Library.”

The book signing and cocktail reception will be held from 5 to 7:30 p.m. at Gardiner Farm, located at 36 James Lane in East Hampton. Tickets are $100. Dinner parties begin at 8 p.m. across the East End. Tickets include entry to the earlier book signing reception and range in price from $250 to $2,500. To purchase tickets and find more information, visit authorsnight.org/info.html.