Check out this article in the Hartford Courant by Susan Dunne
on the “Myths and Idols” show by Parisian artist Travis Durden
Travis Durden is a French artist who is fond of American movies. Travis Durden isn’t his real name, which he doesn’t reveal. He took the pseudonym from Robert De Niro‘s role in “Taxi Driver,” Travis Bickle, and Brad Pitt’s role in “Fight Club,” Tyler Durden.
Durden’s current art project, which can be seen on the walls at EBK Gallery [small works] in Hartford, isn’t about either of those films, but about the “Star Wars” blockbuster movie series that everyone is talking about right now. This is Durden’s first exhibit in the United States.
The germ of the idea came to him years ago, while wandering in the Louvre museum in Paris, through the galleries full of classical sculptures of gods and heroes. It occurred to him that ancient and modern societies create their myths in much the same way.
“At any time, people have always needed to believe in idols to give a moral sense to their lives. Idols and myths are there to instill in us principles of right or wrong,” Durden said in an email interview from Paris. “Much like the figures from ancient legends, the characters in ‘Star Wars’ have a dimension of heroes and villains, and crystallize what is best and worst in human nature. In that sense, they perfectly fit together.”
Durden took photos of his sculptures, and digitally manipulated the photos to replace the statues’ heads with the heads of “Star Wars” characters that he felt matched them in qualities. The resulting photographs have an ancient, marbled glow to them, a perfect meshing of the bodies and heads.
A 1779 Pierre Julien sculpture of a dying gladiator became Boba Fett. A Nicolas Poussin 1804 statue of a draped man reading a tablet became a studious Storm Trooper. A 1822 work of a Hurt Niobid by James Pradier is now General Grievous.
“Grievous is supposed to be indestructible, but I imagine he could die with a simple arrow in the back. … Or a Storm Trooper, who opposes his clone condition by reading a book,” he said.
Some of Durden’s combinations are thought-provoking and some are funny. Darth Vader is the head given to a 1572 Germain Pilon sculpture of the Risen Christ. “I also imagined Darth Vader as a great sage, returning among the living. … My favorite character is Darth Vader, a nice Jedi who became a villain to save his beloved wife Padmé Amidala.”
Yoda’s head sits atop a 1802 Antoine-Denis Chaudet sculpture of a cherub, “L’Amour.” A sexy sculpture of two nude lovers, “Cupidon and Psyche” (1787) by Antonio Canova, has C3PO in the male position. “A robot is incapable of human feelings but C3PO is controlling more than 6 million forms of communication,” Durden said. “We can imagine that one of them is love.”
The project that Durden is now working on is about how the natural life cycle of myths and idols involves their destruction. His “Star Wars” project segues smoothly into that.
“By mixing the two periods, I hope to bring people to think back on how we consume culture,” he said, “and to realize that nothing in ‘Star Wars’ would have been imagined if it hadn’t been for past heroes written a long time ago, in lands far far away.”
TRAVIS DURDEN: MYTHS AND IDOLS will be at EBK Gallery [small works], 218 Pearl St. in Hartford, until Feb. 21. A reception will be held Saturday, Jan. 9, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Except for the reception, hours are by appointment. All works are for sale.ebkgallery.com.