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YRB Interview: Christopher Conte

By Stephanie Amy Collazo

Artist Christopher Conte graduated from Pratt Institute with a Bachelors Degree in Fine Art only to spend the 16 years after his graduation working in the prosthetics field making artificial limbs for amputees. While working as a Certified Prosthetist, Conte created biomechanical sculptures in his free time, reflecting his secret passion for biomechanics, anatomy and robotics. In 2008, while being tattooed by legendary tattoo artist Anil Gupta, Conte was given the connections that opened doors to showing his artwork in galleries and allowed him to work as a full time sculptor.

Not aware there was a name for the genre in which he had been working, Conte’s interest in antiques and mechanical objects lead him down the path to being associated with the steampunk lifestyle. Now working primarily in metal, Conte’s work sells anywhere between $5,000-$8,000. The majority of his pieces have already been sold and can be found in personal collections.

For those of you who may be unaware of what steampunk is we will save you the time you’d spend Googling the term. Steampunk is a subgenre of science fiction, including fantasy or horror themes.  Usually set in an anachronistic Victorian or quasi-Victorian alternate history setting. In laymen’s terms steampunk is a genre heavily focused on taking things from the Industrial Era, when steam power was widely used, and either using the parts to make interesting pieces of artwork or taking an entire piece from that period and updating it with new technology so it has the look of the time period but is completely functional in this day and age.

“My stuff is not necessarily all steampunk,” said Conte. “I wouldn’t say I’m just a steampunk artist, [but] certainly some of the pieces I’ve done fit in the steampunk theme.”

A year after learning he had been searched as a steampunk artist, Conte was contacted by’s Bruce Rosenbaum, inviting him to show his work in an exhibition featuring steampunk art.

His work is currently on display as a part of the Mobilis in Mobili Gallery at Wooster Street Social Club. The piece he created for the exhibit is a mechanical mosquito tattoo machine made out of a novelty tattoo machine.

“I came up with the idea after getting bit by a mosquito and thought a mosquito might be pretty relevant as far as using some kind of tattoo machine as a sort of drive mechanism and building an insect based around that,” said Conte. “I found a novelty tattoo machine, and I was able to reverse engineer that, rebuild it, clean up the frame, swap out a lot of the parts on it, make it into a one inch tall working tattoo machine and that became a starting point to build an insect around. From there, I just found the parts that I needed, built wings, cast legs in bronze and it sort of took off from there.”

Conte’s fully functioning mechanical mosquito tattoo machine will be on display at the home of NY Ink, WSSC, through January 14.

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