Saturday, August 22, 2009
Family Photos You Hide
(note her hands...)
"Sarah and Emmett"
The art of Travis Louie
“When I was about 5 years old, I wanted to be King Kong. I wanted to climb the Empire State Building, clutching a beautiful little blond woman, while bi-planes circled around me trying to shoot my hairy ass down. Fortunately, I never acted any of that out. Most of my early childhood in New York, was spent making drawings and watching “atomic age” sci-fi and horror movies.
“Most Saturday afternoons included trips to the local comic shops and noon matinees at the RKO Keith’s on Northern Blvd, marveling at the 1950’s memorabilia; the rocket ships, the superheroes, the giant monsters, and those wonderful movie posters! I would try and draw as much as I could remember from those excursions.After high school, my ‘formal art training’ was at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY." Source
In an interview with Juxtapose magazine, he was asked how he would prefer to die, and he said...
"Being shot down in a hail of gunfire from bi-planes circling around me as I am clutching a beautiful blond woman and straddling the tallest Art Deco structure in New York City. I would probably be screaming, "Don't judge me, . . . I was a man once."
At my funeral, I would want someone to say, "It was beauty that killed the beast"
"The Smoking Man"
The above image was from a show in November of last year, which was a collection of images inspired by the experiences of young Travis visiting his grandmother in her apartment complex on Mulberry Street in Italy. The building super was an "odd guy," difficult to understand, who worked on his sculptures, drilling and sanding at all hours of the night, sending odd noises wafting up from the basement...He remembers that the whole building was full of strange noises, and he spent many hours trying to imagine what the people behind those noises looked like. This show was called "Strange Neighbors."
(From "Strange Neighbors")
In an interview with Arrested Motion, Travis Louie described a bit of his process:
"I usually write my stories first and I keep a journal with me at all times. It’s become kind of a ritual for me to write a little every day. I go through my journals and imagine what pictures can be made from the writings and what cohesive elements would make for a series of paintings. I try to look at the overview of where my work is going . . . not to be too calculating, but it helps me pick where I want to go with this. The next step in my process is to make many little drawings. After refining the best ones . . . a final drawing or drawings are put together for the paintings. I then prep my boards and transfer the images . . . I still make changes . . . but they are usually not huge ones at this stage. Painting is more like a refining process for me. All the creativity takes place well before the actual painting is even started."
He also claims to get a lot of inspiration and direction from his dreams.
You can watch him in speedy motion creating one of his portraits here.
Last night (Aug 21) was the opening night of his newest show, at the Roq la Rue gallery in Seattle, entitled "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Monster."
On his webpage, he gives a little on his own background and his artwork:
"The visual style of his work is mostly influenced by the lighting and atmosphere of German Expressionist and Film Noir motion pictures from the Silent Era to the late 1950’s. Films from directors like F W Murnau, Fritz Lang, Orson Welles, Robert Siodmak, Robert Aldrich, Jacque Tourneur, and cinematographer, Greg Toland, had a great effect on the way he wanted his paintings to look.
To achieve the dramatic 'mood' in his paintings, they are produced primarily in black and white or limited color. He uses acrylic paints over tight graphite drawings on smooth grounds, like 'plate' finish illustration board or finely sanded, primed wood panels."
And he's expounded a bit on his themes:
"Mistaken identity… being judged solely on one's appearance… racism. I remember being on a bus with my mom in 1973, and a woman started giving my mom a hard time because of our Southeast Asian appearance. She assumed we were Vietnamese, and insulted us about the conflict in Vietnam and how we didn't belong in her country. My mom always tried to hide such things from us. She felt it was not right to expose us to how ugly ignorance is. The bus driver stepped in and told the lady to pipe down. It played like an awkward moment in a Norman Lear sitcom, but the experience stayed with me.
The characters in my paintings are – or can easily be – misunderstood. They are, for the most part, kind and affable – just trying to get by, like anyone else. I try to keep it light and maybe humorous.
Part of what fascinates me about films like Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Invaders from Mars is the paranoia. I can identify with the character who knows something's going on, but no one believes him." --Source.
Ouija Board Travis Louie created for a "Talking Board Show" at Copro Nason Gallery in Santa Monica.
Travis Louie also created the artwork for an album by one of the most incredible musical artists I know of, Les Claypool, whose bass playing, lyrics, and style are also out of this world:
"Of Fungi and Foe"
Here is Les Claypool, performing "Booneville Stomp", from that album, live on Jimmy Kimmel, with images by Travis Louie on large screens in the background. At around 3:18, it starts to get crazy....
Travis Louie recently released a book of his images and the stories behind them, set up like an old family photo album, entitled "Curiosities." Buy it here if you're not close enough to get a signed version...although I've heard if you contact him, he'll sign one and send it to you.
A few examples of his astonishing gift for creative character sketches follow, along with a link to his page.
"Herbert was a very peculiar simian. He walked upright with a cane. and
had an unusual gait that consisted of a slow step followed by a slightly faster one, and then a short hop. His prehensile tail was longer than usual and he used it to pick people’s pockets, . . .not to rob them, but to find out as much information as he could about them, . . . fore he loved people. They fascinated him.
Most of his early life was spent working for an organ grinder in a town square in Sheffield. It was his favorite vocation because he was in contact with so many different people. He danced to the sounds of the organ grinder for 5 years and then tragically, his employer was run over by a team of Clydesdale horses. As a result, he developed a phobia of horses and a weakness for single malt scotch.
In 1915, he enlisted in the military and left Sheffield to fight in the trenches for 2 years. He returned home after suffering the war wound that accounted for his unusual gait and his need for a cane. No longer able to dance, he was forced to get a job at a distillery.
On his first day of work, he came across a team of draft horses and nearly wet himself. To help him overcome his equine anxieties, his fellow workers came up with an elaborate plan. They dressed up as horses and pranced around him for days. When he was hauled away to the asylum, they all apologized and wished him well. He recovered and spent the rest of his days working for shipbuilders in Glasgow and avoiding horses. "
Sam the Krampus
"It's that season again,
Krampus' will be descending upon the wicked and selfish, . . .
Sam likes to sneak up on his victims and cover their eyes. He is only 3 feet tall, so he carries a folding stepladder with him. Once he has his hands over the person's eyes he whispers in a very convincing woman's voice, when they turn around, they usually are frightened into unconsciousness.
At which time, he cross-dresses his victims, . . . affixing crooked wigs to their heads and miss-matched high heels to their feet (usually 2 left feet), and places them in uncomfortable locations where they might be seen by the most people, like train stations or bus terminals."
"Sam the Krampus"
In an exceptionally well-done interview on Erratic Phenomena, he described his relationship with his grandfather, who encouraged his artwork, and influenced the way he would create and work with other creators.
"My grandfather was a machinist who worked for the Bulova Watch Co. in Astoria. He was a decent draftsman himself and used to draw dinosaurs and elephants for me. He encouraged me to draw what I saw on the big screen – and the little one. He said, "Someone had to design everything you are looking at." He introduced me to those great stop-motion creature features, from King Kong to Jason and the Argonauts. He bought me art supplies and built my first drawing table. I remember when we saw the Ralph Bakshi-animated Lord of the Rings, he asked me to try and remember what I saw and draw it. I drew a really clunky version of Gollum."
One thing that he's gaining a name for other than his art is his support of other up-and-coming artists. Recently (July 11th), he curated a show called "Monster?" at the Copro Gallery, which included work by over 50 artists, including individual works by production artists from film, book and magazine illustrators, as well as "gallery" artists. He generally picked artists whom he felt were under-appreciated, taken for granted because of the way their artwork is generally seen as simply an aspect of a larger work--recalling, perhaps, the words of his grandfather...
"Ophelia, Queen of the Sea Monkeys"
He has a fantastic page, with a blog link here.
I will leave you here with a sweet little interview of the artist with Maya, from YouTube. It's pretty adorable, you should watch it: