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Steampunk Art Exhibit Opens June 3 at Grassroots Art Center

Gary PendergrassDriving through a quiet neighborhood in Wichita one comes upon a magical land filled with birds, engines, masks and statues, often Victorian looking, which make up the yard art of Gary Pendergrass. He is considered a "Steampunk" artist.

Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction or science fantasy that incorporates technology and aesthetic designs inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery.

Pendergrass' creations are all that and more - fantastical creatures, machines and vehicles created of metal, wood, laminated Styrofoam and plastic, donated by neighbors, found at garage sales or in dumpsters, all created in the last four years.

Pendergrass had a career in home remodeling and liked to sketch as a child. When he retired he came across a steampunk hat created by Jack Kellogg of Hatman Jack's, a hat store in Wichita where he lives. Something resonated and he decided to make a couple of pieces. People liked it, so he kept on.Steampunk

His wife was concerned at the number of pieces filling up the house so he started creating outdoor pieces, making them weather tolerable. Now when you drive by his house, you will see dragons, Abe Lincoln, the Statue of Liberty, an intergalactic Marshall, a "bird of hope", and steam engines.

He was concerned that people might not like them in the neighborhood. He thought of S.P. Dinsmoor's Garden of Eden in Lucas and thought "he got away with it". He found people to be very receptive and encouraged him to make more, and now neighbors bring him discarded objects that might find a place in a sculpture.

Rosslyn Schultz, Executive Director of the Grassroots Art Center in Lucas, heard about Pendergrass and contacted him. He is now one of the over 108 "grassroots" artists that the Grassroots Art Center has documented, drawing on the fact that Kansas is third in the nation in yard art environments after California and Wisconsin. The open landscape and open minded spirit allowed people to fill their yard with sculptures expressing their unique free spirited viewpoint. Pendergrass continues that tradition.

Twenty-five Pendergrass sculptures, including two large outdoor pieces are now on display at the Grassroots Art Center. The exhibit opening will be June 3 from 12:30 to 2 PM when you can meet the artist and see other exhibits at the museum.

Hours are Monday through Saturday from 10 to 5 and Sunday from 1 to 5. Call 785-525-6118 for more information.

(Information and photos courtesy Grassroots Art Center.)

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