A Long Time Ago, In a Gallery Far, Far Away
By James Abraham
These are the droids you’re looking for—and you’ll find them within the pages of this new George Lucas-blessed collection of artwork that drew from the far reaches of the galaxy for inspiration of a pop culture milestone. For those who eschewed Paris, London and Hong Kong as exotic, faraway places—Star Wars Art: Visions isn’t for you. But if your fantasy vacation itinerary includes places like Tatooine, Hoth and Bespin (or, if you want to get crazy, you can name-drop Kashyyyk or Geonosis), then this 176-page labor of love will put the vroom back in your landspeeder.
Yes, my friends. Rally the stormtroopers.
Seriously, though, Visions is a very skilled and emotionally-stirring look at how one man’s vision can inspire artists, comic-book types and illustrators. Lucas himself invited over 100 artists to create new works, riffing off of the established Star Wars milieu; the people, the places, the defining moments. And it is in these moments in which characters like Luke, Leia and Anakin come alive and give substance and texture to oft-told tales of struggle and hope, tyranny and adventure.
One of the coolest works is one of the intro images called Magic Hour—an oil on canvas by Jon Demartin—which depicts several dozen cars (they look like American Graffiti vintage) lined up in front of a drive-in movie theater screen. (Naturally), the film on the screen is The Empire Strikes Back, specifically the scene when Vader confronts Luke about (not-so-spoiler alert) his lineage. Magic Hour indeed.
Other artists include Allan R. Banks, Gary Carter, Michael Coleman, Donato Giancola, H.R. Giger (personal fave—who-hoo! Alien!), Paul Oxborough, Anthony J. Ryder, Julie Bell and Jamie Wyeth.
There are works that are very true-blue to the source material. Daniel E. Greene’s Princess Leia is an oil-and-linen with her classic Help-me-Obi-Wan-Kenobi white gown, blaster and earmuff ’do fully loaded. Tony Curanaj’s A Good Find: Portrait of a Tusken Raider also is steeped into the Lucasfilm concept art authenticity. Poor IG-88.
Others riff on pop culture—not at all ironic considering Star Wars is itself a pop culture-defining watershed moment—like Douglas Fraser’s 1/24th Scale, which shows what appears to be a Hot Wheels hot rod interpretation of Darth Vader’s helmet. There’s also the collage-like (and vaguely decoupage-like) approach of Stephen Johnson’s LEIAPOP! This work uses the traditional portrait of the princess and has her peering out beneath the cut-up pieces of paper (including a schematic from a TIE Fighter) from magazines, and newspaper and even gift wrap that covers most of the entire canvas. Pablo’s Cantina is what would happen if the Mos Eisley cantina crew were to collide with Picasso’s brushstrokes. Brilliant.
But the dealmaker is Peter Ferk’s work, which depicts a child’s toys piled up on a table or bed. The toys are an AT-AT Walker, the Millennium Falcon, a Y-Wing Fighter and several action figures. The name of the piece? The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of. Touché.
The Force is strong in this one.
Star Wars Art: Visions with a foreword by George Lucas, introduction by J.W. Rinzler. Hardcover, 176 pages, 120 full-color illustrations. List price: $40.