Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Travis Louie - Artist Review

Herman and Morris
Atmosphere and strangeness; Travis Louie displays a mastery of both in his paintings.  Rendered in acrylic over graphite, Louie's work depicts an alternate world of Victorian society littered with dreamlike touches.  Odd creatures and persons not quite human have their portraits taken.  There is a mundanity to the practice, but the subjects of the paintings are anything but mundane.

On one hand, you have the familiar.  Stern tintypes of relatives with slicked-over hairstyles and curly mustaches are things we might find in any of our family attics.  The formality of the portrait served a few purposes back in the day.  Not mere records of appearance, they were also a display of status and place in the society.  One's dress, one's posture, and the style of one's brooch are all details that indicated the larger world surrounding the subject.  One could argue that the rigid structure dictated by the technology of the time gave definition to these minute differences between a baker and a broker.

Leveraging this attention to detail, and how it can lead to the weaving of insinuated worlds, Travis Louie's portraits of imaginary persons are each deeply fascinating.  Once you get past the upfront strangeness of troll-like appearances or giant toads, you may be struck by the familiarity of the work.  They way the subjects sit and look off camera is comforting.  And then, again, upon examining the details that indicate that larger world, that strangeness comes creeping back.  For example, look into the unnatural gleam in the eyes of the man in Herman and Morris above.

Candletop Hastings

On the other hand, Louie is great because of the up-front weirdness of his work.  I mean, really, to somebody who has spent far, far too much time wallowing in descriptions of Edwardian fish-people or fantastical steampunk half-breeds, Travis Louie is like an uncomfortable dream come true.  There's monster-people, monkey-people, people holding giant goldfish, people with odd little creatures floating above their heads.

While Louie's style is undoubtably his own, I can't help but point out a few other ways to describe his style that might appeal.  His work is like looking at the great-grandparents of Toni DiTerlizzi's faeries, rendered in film noir shading.  Louie's portraits are like peeking into the fantasy world of a book not-yet-written, but that I desperately want to read.  The influence of his childhood days spent watching atomic-age sci-fi thrillers is evident in his mutants and independently-minded hairdos.

I wish I could show you everything Louie has done.  Picking examples for this post was immensely difficult, so I'll just direct you to his website:  Also, a google image search under his name will produce further wonders.  Oh, and what wonders they be.


P.S. Sorry this is late, my laptop blew up.  Grrrrr. :(

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