MY CREATIVE PROCESS
Each piece has been different for me and each seems to come from a different place. I have combined craft, electronics and "craziness" using both old and new objects. My pieces often start with a story or scene which sometimes are triggered by the materials at hand. What is wonderful about adding technology is the power that comes from engaging numerous senses to tell the story. Adding sound is powerful by its unexpected presence. Watch "The Prisoner" video and feel the tyranny of time that arises from the constant ticking of the metronome or the ringing of the bell. In "The Last Ride," the sound of the steam locomotive leaving the station reminds us of our inevitable last ride. Having 25,000 volt electric arcs, such as in the wormhole series of pieces, not only is visual and auditory, but the faint smell of ozone adds olfaction to possibly remind us of a thunder and lightning storm.
I especially enjoy adding little details to my pieces. Look hard and you will find my logo for Vandergraaff Gearheardt Laboratories, VGL, on many of my pieces. I use brass slot head screws for a vintage look, and you will find the slots are perfectly aligned. I try to avoid using adhesives unless there is no alternative. Brass and copper are my "go-to" metals and when I use steel pipe fittings, for example, I finish them on my lathe and then copper plate them.
Some people have asked me why they don't see more creations like mine and my answer is that they are very difficult, requiring expertise in metal working, electronics and fine woodworking. I am fortunate to have learned those skills, usually by necessity. These devices also require lots of time to build. Then there is the need to figure out how to make things work together and fit together that were never made to do that. Even figuring out how to replace batteries with hard-wired voltage on a plasma display is harder than it may look and making a solid state high voltage Jacob's Ladder took three months of experiments.
Vandegraaff Gearheardt is the nom de guerre of Greg Barnhart who lives and works in Escondido, California, with his wife, Karen. At the age of 10, Greg started taking things apart and putting them back together to see how they worked. He first repaired clocks, then TVs, and went on to build electronic gadgets from the resistors, capacitors and tubes he salvaged. This was in addition to chemistry experiments and erector set creations. This led him to an Electrical Engineering degree and then work designing surveillance radios. The engineering and creative fun was soon over when Greg moved into sales, marketing, and senior management positions in high technology. Along the way, Greg always found time to design and build, whether it was home additions, plumbing, engines or restoring cars, motorcycles or farm machinery. He was a part-time antiques dealer while living in New Hampshire and has always been an art enthusiast and collector.
A few years after retirement, and after building everything he could think of for his house, Greg discovered the world of Steampunk. From all his years of construction and repair, Greg had gained a wide array of skills working with wood, metal, motors and electronics. The creative spark started with an installation in the foyer of his home which was first intended as a party decoration but gradually evolved and is still in place today.
Greg is a second generation artist. His mother, Julia Barnhart, was a prolific award-winning dry brush watercolorist and exhibited her work in numerous juried and one-woman shows. She produced over 200 works in 30 years, starting when she was 66-years-old
Best of Show Steamathon, Las Vegas, 2016
Best 3D Theme Art San Diego County Fair, 2016. (Largest judged art show in California),
Best New Artist Spectrum Art Show, Indian Wells, Ca. 2017
"Prisoner of TIME" Included in California Center for Arts Museum, April-June 2017