Artist/Inventor of Winterbourne Steambots Delivers Magic to the streets
By Krystal Allen | Photos By Impossible Winterbourne
Men stained with soot and ash in top hats, goggles, and petticoats roam the streets introspectively envisioning new steam inventions. Imagine one of those introspective inventors to be none other than Impossible Winterbourne. His inventions are many in this phantasmagorical world, but for now we will focus on his newest achievement: Steambots. His colorful steam powered robots are taking over the streets of Denver. These whimsical creations are showing up at popular dive bars, coffee shops, and specialty shops all over the city bringing magic and happy smiles to everyone who is privileged to see one. Sadly, this fantasy world is just that… a fantasy (at least for now), but this isn’t stopping Winterbourne from delivering fantasy and magic to our mundane reality.
Winterbourne states, “I’m hoping to add a bit of magic and whimsy into the world”. His Steampunk inspired Steambots may not be made out of metal and steam, and yet, in fact most are made out of cardboard and tape. Regardless, they’re creating a sense of magic for those privileged enough to see one; either taped to a building, propped up on the sidewalk, or inside of a storm drain. Winterbourne protects his identity so he doesn’t get caught by the police as well as to elicit mystery and intrigue for his followers. Part of the excitement of seeing an Impossible Winterbourne piece is knowing that he goes to great lengths to keep his identity secret. In fact, for this article we never spoke in person, only through email. When I asked about his name he told me it was Septimus Winterbourne, given to him by his parents. Yet, when I tried to research him nothing came up. It seems unlikely that I wouldn’t find some kind of information about him, any kind of public record proving he existed, but alas I came up with nothing. So the mystery remains, who is this artist living amongst us, waiting until we are all fast asleep to deliver joy and happiness in the form of Steambots, and why?
Winterbourne began displaying publically a little over a year ago. His first piece exhibited was “a sculpture installation in Cheeseman Park in Denver,CO.”
It was quite well received and lasted “only two short, but glorious days.” This sculpture was made out of plaster bandage and fabric. His Steambots are made out of cardboard. All of his instillations are easily removed. The Steambots are taped in place, and his sculptures are hung with nails and wire. Just as important as creating the robots and faces, is finding a location for them. Winterbourne stated, “with the Steambots, I tried to place them in heavy traffic areas. Since they don’t last long, I want the most amounts of people to see them in the shortest time possible. With the faces, it’s different. They tend to last a bit longer, so I have placed many of them where they are a bit harder to come by. In essence, the type of piece determines the location.” Today he has exhibited his art all over the country. “As of now, my work has been displayed in San Francisco, Austin, Denver, Boulder, Chicago, Rockford, and Madison, WI. This summer, that list will grow quite a bit”.
Winterbourne, like many of his influences, (such as Banksy, Shepard Fairy, and Ron English) bring their work to public spaces so everyday people may interact and determine what art is, and where it should be displayed. Should art only exist in tightly maintained boxes, or should it be restricted to certain formats and categories? By removing art from typical landscapes like galleries or museums, and bringing them to public spaces, these artists are redefining where art should be experienced. It resists conformity and communicates to others to resist this as well. Winterbourne strongly explains, “Too often, we are told what we can or cannot do, what is or is not acceptable. What we need to remember as a society, as a people, is that this is OUR world.
We shape it. WE make it what it is.” In other words, take back the streets from the government and corporate hacks. Give the streets back to the people, let our voices be heard. Corporate graffiti and shitty sanctioned art plague the streets. Winterbourne wants to bring back style and personality to the drab walls that infect our cities. He said, “I see bridges and alcoves as if the city planners and architects who built them were anything at all like the set designers for some of our favorite movies. They would be full of ornamentation and things that make them interesting. Today, when something is designed for the public, it usually lacks style. Everybody is so afraid of offending everyone else that all we get is glass buildings, plaster walls, and sculptures of cows. I am just adding what should have been there in the first place. Where are the gargoyles? Where are the icon statues? Where is the style and personality? I try to do what I can to remedy this.” Street artist like Winterbourne hope to give that voice back to the public. As more people begin to embrace street art, they’re also embracing the message that street artist like Winterbourne are trying to relay. Every message is different, but in Winterbourne’s case, his art is carefree, fantastical, and Steampunk.
Steampunk is an amalgamation of fantasy, science fiction, romance, and technology. Either during a time from an alternative history or a post-apocalyptic future, steam is the main source of fuel.