C-type archival print
Courtesy of Carrie Haddad Gallery, Hudson, NY
Artist Nick Simpson, the fictitious curator and custodian of the Bumforth Manor Family Collection, presents a series of contemporary photographs manipulated to look over a century old, and supposedly rediscovered in the attic of an imaginary, long-dead relative. The artist borrows heavily from the Victorians, resulting in images that touch on “ironic notions of colonialism, pomp, and the impact of the industrial revolution.” Works like The Astonishing Steam Rhinomotive, in which Simpson has created fantastical mechanical creations with a 19th-century aesthetic, are perfect examples of the genre of steampunk.
Like the artist Mark O’Banks, whose Nybelwyck Hall dollhouse is on view in Glenview, Simpson invents a fictitious melodramatic history of a 19th-century family to complement his work. The Gascoigne-Simpson family owned Bumforth Manor, a crumbling, drafty house “of dubious architectural merit near Grantham in Lincolnshire.” Simpson pledges to be the historian of this dubious collection, and with the help of a psychic medium, vows to connect with his ancestor to continue his artistic legacy.
The Victorians were obsessed with photography, then a revolutionary new medium for recording the world. Simpson uses a 19-century camera to create the feeling of popular “salon” photography and give the artwork an authentic quality. He notes that “everything in my pictures is real, especially when incongruous or unexpected. Hand painting, scratching, and distressing add a patina to the plates, giving the illusion that the picture really might be from the 19th century.”