Superheroes and toys, clever photography and computer magic, familiar figures and surreal scenes—Ottowa photographer Daniel Picard may have found the perfect recipe in his series “Figure Fantasy.” Using items from Hot Toys and Sideshow Collectibles, he sets up scenarios on location and shoots them, making the 6” to 12″ tall toys look like they are full-size.
“Seeing Superman stop a train in danger is quite common, but making him take a selfie while doing it is something new and quite silly and that’s how I try to approach my photos: I take these characters from different books and movies and mix them up and make them do things that we’ve never seen them do before because that’s the freedom I have in using these awesome poseable figures and they’ve truly become the perfect ‘actors’ for my scenes.”
The photos feel like a very well executed glimpse behind the scenes. It turns out that when the cameras are off, even Darth Vader has to pee. Batman is a snitch, the Joker is building his own LEGO Gotham, and the IG-88 Assassin Droid practices yoga on the beach. Picard’s childhood interest in comic books serves him well here. From the very first, impromptu, photo of a robot in a field holding a blue balloon, the images have been funny, sometimes scary, sometimes wistful, and always cool.
“I see places and think of photos, scenes and angles in my head, then [I] come home and sketch things out while looking at my collection to see who could be cool to use and how to pose them.” (Source)
Picard has recently teamed up with Sideshow Collectibles for some as-of-now unannounced projects, using their 12” figures as well as their statues. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook for updates and new photos!
Australian photographer Brendan Fitzpatrick’s X-ray photographs expose the inner workings of toys. Fitzpatrick’s photographs are both whimsical and mechanical, evoking the curiosity of childhood and the desire to discover how things look and work from other perspectives. The strategic placement of wires, batteries, and screws are revealed, the complexity of the inside contrasting with the seemingly simplistic design of the outside. Fitzpatrick uses chest X-ray and mammogram machines to photograph flowers, toys, and creatures, then enhances the color in the images in order to more effectively distinguish the various parts that have been exposed. This photographs are part of series he calls “Invisible Light.” (via colossal)
Through the metamorphic conversion of discarded paraphernalia given a second life, art created from materials otherwise destined for a landfill has turned waste into resource. In a conscious reflection of a recycled object’s inherent value as a cultural statement, the fragmented disarray of salvaged goods conjoin as a reflection on the surplus of consumerism. Computer relics and plastic toys from the 1990’s resurface as jarring, three-dimensional works that reestablish a value beyond their initial introduction as cultural commodities. Extending the life of goods long since forgotten, the immortalization of a wastefulness that continues to swell stands as not only a poignant reminder of the ecological decay resulting from our consumption, but the opportunity to revisit and remake otherwise quotidian, superfluous goods.
Working predominately, if not entirely, with upcycled goods, the following artists create stunning installation and sculptural works that are a visual whirlpool of texture, color and line.
Imagine your favorite teddy bear and or snuggly stuffed animal shrunken down to fit atop your fingertip, and you have the magical creations of Su Ami, an artistic company in Vietnam devoted to creating delightfully miniature crochet animals. The family run business includes only 5 expert craftsman who work to imbue the tiny woven creatures with unique and touching personalities.
Because of the animals’ itty bitty frame, each stitch is noticeable, highlighting the careful handmade nature of the work. In each turn of the yarn, we imagine the delicate movements of human fingers, and each being becomes impossibly precious. Heightening their dearness is the fact that delightful creatures are so easily lost; like microscopic pets, their vulnerability inspires us to cherish them and hold fast to their tiny bodies. In this way, the pieces recall the nostalgic yearning of a child for his toy.
Despite their smallness, each creation has an impressively distinct character. With the slightest opening of the mouth, a gecko exudes a curious and playful attitude; a long-beaked bird stares in awe of her own crochet egg. Two squirrels tell a story, peering up at the sky in unison; similarly, a parent elephant watches over her child, whose plastic button eyes seek approval. A lion turns his head with a poignant frown, as if startled by his own size. All animals great and small, from the littlest snail to the tallest giraffe, inhabit the same magical space, cautiously yet courageously exploring the large world they miraculously inhabit. (via Demilked)
Mike Leavitt is already known for his playfully subversive figures that feature and poke fun at other artists, celebrities, and world leaders. In his newest series, Empire Peaks, Leavitt combines famous leaders and innovators with characters from Star Wars. Comprised of 18 figures sculpted out of wood, and each corresponds to one character from the movie franchise. Albert Einstein’s infamous expression is sculpted into R2-D2, while Steve Jobs is his counterpart C-3PO. Michael Jackson plays the part of the adorable Ewoks. US President Barack Obama is Lando Calrissian.
Inspiration for Empire Peaks came from Leavitt’s experience growing up as a Gen-X’r raised by Baby Boomers. With both his parents working, he had to entertain himself, relying on the cheap thrills of television and plastic toys. Describing the series, he writes:
For better or worse, each ‘Empire Peaks’ non-fictional character is complicit in the world order today. We’re all shackled to our past because of endlessly echoing paradigms. David Sirota argues in ‘Back to Our Future’ for a cyclical 30-year regurgitation of politics and culture. I think it’s an inescapable human nature causing regimes to repeat themselves. ‘Empire Peaks’ are meant to reduce modern dynasties to a sci-fi soap opera of objects.
It’s all about gluttony. Serving desires lubricates civilization. Capitalism fills desire and demand. Development expands. Culture thrives. From religious redemption to material objects, mass coveting is the driving force. (Via ARTNAU)
The Star Wars Millenium Falcon doesn’t exist in real life, but you’d never know it by looking at Finnish artist Vesa Lehtimäki (aka Avanaut)’s photographs. In his work, you can spot a Y-Fighter parked among trees, a clear view of ships in outer space, and action shots of some of your favorite characters . Lehtimäki borrowed his son’s toys to photograph and later Photoshop them into their own believably unbelievable situations. They look so life-like you’d think that these small objects are actually a 1:1 reproduction.
The artist has been a life-long fan of the Star Wars franchise. In an interview with Wired, he talks recalls the impact it had on him. “Two of the great moments of my childhood were the first two original Star Wars movies,” says Lehtimäki. “As a kid I wanted to become a movie director. I made some Super 8 movies but it did not work out that well.” He’s an illustrator and designer, and sees these photographs as a way to explore an unfulfilled career path. (Via Gizmodo)
Brett Kern sculpts these incredible “inflatable” dinosaurs and other objects out of plaster. Kern sculpts his own molds out of clay and uses glaze to emphasize his materials’ depth and details. Pop culture has always influenced Kern’s work, and these faux inflatable sculptures are no exception. One of Kern’s first memories as a child was being given an inflatable dinosaur at the hospital for behaving while his mother gave birth to his sister. It’s this playful, childlike wonder that informs the bulk of his work, and the forging of a balance of fragility and buoyancy. .
“I find that the mold-making process imitates, in a certain way, the fossilization process. Objects are covered in a material that captures their shape and texture and this, in turn, preserves the object as a rock-like representation. Movies, television, toys and games dominated the cultural landscape of my youth. I am a product of this specific time period, and I like to think of my artwork as the fossils that will help preserve it.”
I have to confess I am easily drawn to works of art that resemble or depict toys and other childhood objects. At face value these works are easy, as all of us have some form of relationship or pre-existing association with the referenced nostalgic icons. In other words, the works naturally engage us and draw us in. However, these works, specifically those featured here, use the familiar imagery to interject layers of conceptual content, moving far beyond catchy into heavier implications, through expert usage of scale, quantity and context.
Context is key in these pieces. Maurizio Cattelan is a conceptual master of context, as demonstrated in his piece Daddy Daddy, which features a large drowned figure of Pinocchio floating face down in a pool inside the Guggenheim. The result is ironic, tragic and flawless. As well, the practice of significantly altering scale such as Jeff Koons‘ balloon animal sculptures, Urs Fischer‘s Untitled (Lamp/Bear) and Yoram Wolberger‘s life-size sculptures of toy and trophy figurines, allows the objects to become monolithic, dwarf us and alter our sense of reality.