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Staten Islander Turns Ocean Breeze Home Into Steampunk Art Gallery

By Nicholas Rizzi | January 21, 2014 9:11am
 Chris Spollen has put up two huge robots in his front yard and plans to open his home as a gallery.
Chris Spollen's Steampunk House
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OCEAN BREEZE — Staten Island's turkeys are sharing space at a favorite roost with two life-sized robots.

The strange lawn decorations have appeared on the front yard of a Cromwell Avenue home — a spot that usually attracts attention because of the pack of wild birds that flock there.

The robots — one made from an old heating system and the other from metal cans — are the work of Staten Island artist Chris Spollen, who lives in the house.

"It's not something that people necessarily put out on their lawn in Staten Island," said Spollen, 61.

Inside, Spollen and his wife Jing Bao, a painter, have turned their Ocean Breeze home into a large steampunk gallery that they dubbed the "Steam Powered Art Factory."

Nearly every inch of the two-floor home is filled with steampunk styled airplanes, guns, submarines, cars and more that Spollen makes using trash he finds in junkyards and on street corners.

"It's somewhere between Jules Verne and steampunk," Spollen said about the work.

So far Spollen, a teacher at FIT who worked as a freelance digital illustrator, plans to eventually open up the house as a gallery for people to view the entire collection.

"Our next step is to show the work," Spollen said. "I have a lot of friends that say 'when are you going to show it?' It's sort of just beginning to happen."

Spollen started to create the sculptures two years ago. Nearly every wall and shelf in the home — including the backyard — has a sculpture or one of Bao's paintings on it.

The pair has lost count of exactly how many sculptures Spollen has made, but it's more than 100 pieces, Spollen said.

"I'll have three pieces going at once," he said. "It just gets better and better."

A few of the pieces from Spollen's steampunk collection have been shown in galleries in Staten Island, Massachusetts and New Jersey, and the robots have been a big hit in the neighborhood.

"We've had more people ring our bell to take pictures with the robots," Spollen said.