Gett Off! from the “Le Petit Prince” series by Troy Gua (photo from Google Images)
A2G: The Prince fan community, which can be very hard to please, really seemed to love “Le Petit Prince,” but Prince himself did not. What happened?
TG: I don’t know what finally caused the cease and desist order, because I had been advertising the sale of prints of the work (*my* work) for a while, but it was when I began selling calendars that I got shut down. I have to point out that I was only selling merchandise of this work to fund the project’s continuation towards the completion of the book. And I still feel that I was doing no wrong – I was simply filtering my memories, expressing my vision of a great artistic influence in my own artistic language – based on existing imagery, yes, but made wholly new by my interpretation – which so much of art is. Anyhoo, after 11 months of work, I received an email from the lawyers and a letter via FedEx the next day. It basically said that because of my use of Prince’s likeness to sell work, I needed to erase LPP from the internet and never show the work online or off. So – in the end I guess it was about money.
from “Le Petit Prince” (photo from Google Images)
A2G: Did any of his associates give you advice/support for dealing with the cease and desist order?
TG:No advice, really, but a lot of support – several of his former bandmates/associates posted really wonderful, supportive comments on Facebook and such.
Dirty Mind by Troy Gua
A2G: Aside from working through lawyers, you were never contacted by Prince. If you could send a message to Prince, what would you say about this whole situation?
TG: Wow, I really don’t know what he personally thinks of the project, so that’s a tough question. I’d like him to know that the LPP Project was meant as a loving and respectful tribute to him, and nothing more. It grew out of something I made for myself into something so much bigger than I could have ever planned or imagined, and was fueled by his fans’ adoration and passion for him and his art, on a global scale. The only ingredients in this project were admiration, joy and love, and it was a sad thing to have it stamped out so unceremoniously. I’d like to say “Let’s get together and make some wonderful art and make people smile – the world needs more of both”.
Troy Gua with Le Petit Prince
A2G: If Prince or his legal team were to change his/their mind(s), would you continue the “Le Petit Prince” project or has this experience soured you?
TG: I would, and I have continued – I just don’t post the work online. I was in the process of filling the visual gaps in Prince’s career to compile images for the book when the c&d came down, and I was actually getting close to wrapping – at least as far as that part of the project went. If Prince would change his mind and get on board, it would make a lot of people happy. We could offer the book (which is a beautiful, 12×12″, 160+ page coffee table volume including tons of never before seen, unreleased work), and who knows, maybe even LPP reproductions. The fans would LOVE it. I’ve been doing the most recent looks and some more surreal, fantastical stuff referencing the whole ‘3rd Eye Girl’ thing that’s been going on. I could, of course, go on forever with it, being there is so much source material, but I won’t…or will I?
Le Petit Prince 2011 – 2012. RIP?
TG (continued): At the end of the day, I do have a problem with reconciling the concept of an artist censoring another artist, especially when the artwork in question was clearly a loving tribute. Appropriation is a tradition, art historically speaking, and there would have never been an Andy Warhol without it. Appropriation happens to be a big part of what I do as an artist, but the work I did with “Le Petit Prince” was a reimagining, an artistic interpretation of Prince as my life’s greatest inspiration, and *I* created that work using that inspiration, stealing nothing. I hold to that truth – and it could be argued. When the cease and desist order came down, my first reaction was to acquiesce – to fight would have been in direct opposition to the spirit of the project itself. But looking back on the situation now, I do feel it’s a bit extreme and quite unfair to the project’s fans as well as myself to not allow the work to exist or be shown anywhere – online or off. I still hold some hold hope that that decision can and will be reversed at some point.
Chysalis (Contents May Shift in Transit) photo by Will Austin
TG: I got no time to waste! I have so many ideas that it’s a struggle to get them made – they were backing up all last year when I was so focused on LPP, so now they’re starting to come flying out in various forms. I’ve been thinking about this particular design for a while – the <3 texting code for love. I call my design ‘Metamodern Love’. I’m fascinated with symbols and pictograms, and I wanted to use it as an updated version of Robert Indiana’s LOVE works, and it just seems like a design that would be big for the digital demographic. I’m into getting my work into people’s lives any way I can, and if that means on a t-shirt, I’m cool with that (I plan on releasing the design as a ‘floating heart’ pendant as well as a pin in the very near future). Plus, it is a symbol of positivity, of love – and as for the term ‘metamodern’, from Wikipedia: “Van den Akker and Vermeulen define metamodernism as a continuous oscillation, a constant repositioning between positions and mindsets that are evocative of the modern and of the postmodern but are ultimately suggestive of another sensibility that is neither of them: one that negotiates between a yearning for universal truths on the one hand and an (a)political relativism on the other, between hope and doubt, sincerity and irony, knowingness and naivety, construction and deconstruction.”
Metamodern Love (Look Inside Your Heart) by Troy Gua
A2G: You’ve also done a series of “Pop Hybrids.” (please explain the process or how the series came about). Have you received any feedback from the artists you’ve immortalized?
TG: The whole idea started when I decided to reboot my style by making abstract, highly graphic paintings of overlapping circles – the overlapping colors would make new colors, and new shapes were made by the overlaps. At the same time I had started making these 2D paper cutouts representing iconic faces that I would sandwich between glass in shadowboxes. I melded the two ideas together, essentially. I thought about the idea of overlapping, layering, and how we’re all running out of space – literally, mentally, memorially – and I thought about how, in the theoretical future, in order to save room, we’re going to have to combine objects, combine personalities, combine everything – distillation and hybridization. That made sense to me as a concept – and in keeping with the concept, I wanted to insert as many layers of interpretation into the work as I could. For instance, ‘The Boy King of Pop’ is a combination of Michael Jackson and King Tut. Layer one: the title – it hybridizes their popular monikers “The Boy King’ and ‘The King of Pop’. Layer two: they were both children thrust into the limelight without a choice or a voice in the matter. Layer three: they both ended up in masks of different sorts, literally and figuratively. I try to implement this layering system with all the pieces in the series, sometime more successfully than other times. As for feedback, I haven’t heard from anyone, but then again, many of the subjects are dead and buried.
Troy Gua with 2 Pop Hybrids
A2G: What’s a typical day in your life like?
TG: I live a pretty low-key life, really. I get up around 7am, have breakfast with my beautiful bride, and scan my computer in my usual loop of email, Facebook, job search (I need to either find a better way to make the art career pay off, or sell my soul – I’d prefer the former to the latter). Then I either exercise at the gym or go running to maintain my girlish figure, run errands, and then it’s time to work on whatever project(s) I’m working on, which is usually several at once. I stay pretty attached to my laptop and keep connected as much as possible with the social medias, which I see as part of the job of being an artist today – at least an artist at my level. My wife is going to school full-time and doing a couple of courses online, so we spend much of the day in close proximity and share meals and such. I love it – she’s my bestie. At night, we usually watch an episode of whatever show we’re currently obsessed with and turn in around 10 or 11. I used to go to a ton of art events, but that became draining and felt obligatory, so I stopped for about a year. I’m trying to ween myself back into going out more, though. Pretty mellow lifestyle, these days.
Andy Warhol vs. Man Ray by Troy Gua
A2G: Any plans on exhibiting in New York?
TG: Of course, that’s the dream – no plans at this point, because I haven’t been able to make any gallery connections, but if I can make it there…and if you know anybody, I’m so ready for a big break.
Facebox by Troy Gua
A2G: What does the future hold for you?
TG: I’ve got ideas for daaaayzzzz…I really just want to be able to continue to manifest my concepts, execute my work to the best of my ability and share what I do with the hope that it invites people to think, ask questions, and smile – on as big a scale as possible. I do have a solo show of my ‘Pop Hybrid’ series coming up in May at the Kenneth Paul Lesko Gallery in Cleveland – working my way towards NYC.
Art Brut by Troy Gua
Fantome with Cheese by Troy Gua
Burger Cheveux by Troy Gua
The Physical Impossibility Of Equilibrium For The Art Of Art History Submerged In A Vitrine Of Piss (Coffee Table Book) by Troy Gua
Monument by Troy Gua
Venus Mars (Saturn) by Troy Gua
Untitled by Troy Gua
As you have seen from all these extremely diverse works of art, Troy Gua is definitely an artist to watch and I am very excited to see what he comes up with next. Thanks again Troy and my fingers are crossed for a New York exhibit soon! And Prince, if you are out there, please reconsider your harsh decision and let “Le Petit Prince” live again. Art lovers and Prince fans unite and let’s help make this happen! Visit Troy Gua’s official website here. (link will open in new window)
Photos (except for the Le Petit Prince images which were found on Google Images) courtesy of Troy Gua.
Father + Son by Troy Gua
There are few artists around that are truly masters of many styles. Seattle-based pop artist Troy Gua is one of them. As you will see and read from this Q&A that I did with Troy Gua, be prepared to be impressed by his art. His work even caught the attention of music legend Prince, however, as you will come to learn, that story (as of press time) did not end happily.
For the Love of Damien by Troy Gua
Troy was given Seattle Magazine’s 2011 Spotlight Award and with or without Prince’s support, Troy Gua is an artist to be reckoned with. I recently chatted with Troy about life, art, Prince any many more subjects and what you will read below (and in a future post) are the highlights of our conversation. Enjoy and thanks again to Troy for his honesty and of course for rocking my world (and hopefully yours too) with his great art!
Your Face Here (After Shepard Fairey) by Troy Gua
According2G: What’s on your iPod / Kindle / Netflix?
Troy Gua: Prince and associated artists are always in heavy rotation, but I’ve also been listening to Frank Ocean, Glen Campbell, Zapp, David Bowie. I’m reading a Jack Reacher novel by Lee Childs (one of my guilty pleasures), and have been watching Six Feet Under damn near daily for a few weeks now. Recently watched Looper and For a Good Time, Call…
At the Foot of the Opening at the Beginning and the End of Being by Troy Gua
A2G: You have a vast body of work that is extremely diverse. What’s your favorite medium to work in?
King’s Ruin by Troy Gua
TG: I wouldn’t be able to say what my favorite medium is – for me, it’s more about the idea than the material. I use whatever I can get my hands on to manifest my concepts physically, whatever makes sense, whatever the party calls for. Of course, the aesthetics are extremely important to me as well, but I generally let the concept dictate the materials.
Sustaining An Untitled Living Room Wall Fountain Progression by Troy Gua
A2G: When and how did you get into art?
TG: It’s always just been ‘my thing’. From the time I was a small kid, I got the pat on the back for being ‘the artist’ of the class. That part felt really good, and just like a drug addict chasing the dragon of his first high, I’ve been chasing the dragon of that first pat on the back ever since.
Bipolar Bear by Troy Gua
A2G: Who are your heroes or influences?
TG: I’ve got many from varied sources: my wife quite literally saved my life when we got sober together 6+ years ago. She helped me find a new path and renewed my dream of ‘making it’ as an artist – pretty heroic. My father was a hero of sorts, in that he always made me feel safe from harm – when he died, that feeling did too, to a certain extent. Prince is my artistic hero, and will always be my biggest influence. David Bowie, Luke Skywalker, Johnny Depp. From the art world, I love Maurizio Cattelan, Marcel Duchamp, Jeff Koons, Yves Klein, Sal Dalí, Xavier Veilhan, Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst, Donald Judd, Robert Indiana, Chuck Close…in no particular order, and I’m sure I’m leaving some important names out.
Ernie and Bert as Colorbandz by Troy Gua
A2G: You’ve done a series called “Colorbandz” Tell us about the process and how do you decide who makes the cut?
TG: The process starts with a color photograph – a head shot, straight on. I use the subjects features as guides for placement of transferred color samples from the photo, creating horizontal stripes. The idea is that of a portrait ‘at the speed of technology’, and is meant to reference today’s incredibly faced pace world. We see pictures of each other online, we get blips of information, we have short attention spans, we’re doing a million things all at once – we only see each other as we’re flying by at mach speed. That’s what the Colorbandz™ are meant to represent. As for who makes the cut, initially it was my friends and local art colleagues, but then of course, my celebrity obsession leaked into it and I began using famous folks that have iconic looks, that would also assist in delivering the concept to folks that just couldn’t get it. When I used Bert and Ernie, who are about as distilled as you can get as far as representative imagery, a lot of people had the aha moment with the series. I still take commissions for them, although I don’t regularly work on the series much at this point.
Starfish and Coffee by Troy Gua
A2G: I know you are a big Prince fan. What’s your favorite Prince song and Prince related memory?
TG: Eesh – I’ve been asked this many times, and my answer always wants to change, because it really depends on the mood, but I’m gonna go with Erotic City – followed closely by I could Never Take the Place of Your Man, Anotherloverholenyohead, Adore, Bambi, and She’s Always in My Hair. Favorite Prince songs are like potato chips – I can’t have just one. Best Prince memory? The first time I saw him live – February 15th, 1985 in the Tacoma Dome. Transformative. I have to thank my sister for that.
Le Petit Prince by Troy Gua (note: Image taken from Google).
A2G: Favorite unreleased Prince song/concert?
TG: Lovesexy Dortmund [from 1988], and the song I’ve never heard that will make my head cave in.
Comparison of Prince with Le Petit Prince by Troy Gua. Image taken from Google Images.
A2G: How did the “Le Petit Prince” project come about?
TG: I was really just doing something fun for myself. I’ve been working hard to make a living as an artist in Seattle, and it’s been a tough go. I feel like if I could get my work into other markets, I’d be much more successful, financially. Anyway, I’d had a real busy 2011, which was pretty successful as far as local visibility and recognition goes, but I was frustrated that it wasn’t really yielding anything opportunity-wise or money-wise. So I just wanted to take a small break and make something that wasn’t meant for exhibition or sale. I’ve always been fascinated with Gerry Anderson’s Supermarionation work and wanted to make a sculptural doll of my hero that would be in the style of the Thunderbirds and such. I went about making that happen, tried to find someone to sew a ⅙ scale Purple Rain outfit (Purple coat, black pants, ruffled shirt), but couldn’t find anyone that would do it – so my wife convinced me to do it myself. I’d never sewn a thing in my life, so she helped on the first jacket and I took it from there. I posted some pics online, they began to get shared around, I started getting requests to do recreations of other Princely eras, took the requests as challenges, and went for it. It blew up from there. I began fabricating tiny guitars, all the clothes, using different wigs and cutting and styling them, making sets, and basically recreating Prince’s career visually with photography, all in ⅙ scale. I got to the point where I had done so many looks and eras that it just made sense to me to see the project through and complete the visual timeline. I was working towards a beautiful coffee table book and was hoping to exhibit the work at some point, but as you know [and will be addressed further in the second part of this interview], that idea was squelched.
XVALA is not just a street artist. XVALA is a tabloid artist. His work focuses on pieces that address celebrity and popular culture. If you live in Los Angeles or New York, there’s no way you have missed the “Fear Google” series that can be seen all over the streets of both cities. I recently interviewed XVALA and at the conclusion of this article, if this doesn’t find you wanting to Google his Wiki, nothing will.
Xvala – Fear Google in Beverly Hills
According2G: Tell us a little bit about your background including how you got into street art?
XVALA: Street art is what it looks like when my Wikipedia page is put in an unsuspecting spot that anyone can stumble upon. Anything I do can get edited, vandalized or deleted.
Bright Light Bright Light aka Rod Thomas is setting the music world on fire. His debut album “Make Me Believe in Hope” is released in the United States today, June 26, 2012! The album is pop perfection with highly danceable and extremely addictive songs. This collection of songs deals with finding love, being in love and getting your heart broken and all to delectable dance beats. If my glowing recommendation to get the album is not enough, Sir Elton John was recently quoted as saying that “Bright Light Bright Light is the hottest thing in the music business at the moment.”
I asked Rod Thomas a few questions, but before you familiarize yourself with the man, get to know his music. Click play to start your day off right!
According2G: What are your favorite pop songs of all time?
Bright Light Bright Light: Oh God … so many. ‘Hyperballad’ by Bjork is probably my favourite song ever. I guess that’s pop … but of the more full-on pop nature … maybe ‘Dreamer’ by Livin’ Joy, ‘Power Of A Woman’ by Eternal (purely for the number of key changes) or ‘Whadda Ya Want From Me’ by Frankie Knuckles and Adeva.
A2G: You collaborated with Scissor Sisters guitarist Del Marquis on “Cry At Films” which is available on your debut album “Make Me Believe In Hope.” How did that come about?
BLBL: When I was in NYC in the summer of 2009, I emailed Del as I’d heard his solo records and loved them. So we met for dinner and went to watch Depeche Mode together. We hung out and got on really well musically and as friends. Then I produced ‘Cry At Films’ on the plane home, sent it to him when we were swapping some music and he liked it. So we ended up turning it into a collaboration as we became better friends. It was such an incredible feeling to first hear someone from one of my FAVOURITE bands on my own song!
A2G: A lot of your mash-ups are widely circulated on the net. What’s your favorite mash-up you’ve done? How do you come up with the ideas for mash-ups? [Editors note: many BLBL mashups can be downloaded on his official Soundcloud page.]
BLBL: I think my favourite mashup is my track [“Your Lovin Moves (BLBL vs. Billie Ray Martin)”] which is ‘Moves’ verses Billie Ray Martin ‘Your Loving Arms’. It sounds really epic and really sad, I love it. Her voice just soars.
A2G: What are your favorite cities to perform in?
BLBL: NYC is a really special place to play for me. I’ve not played in too many cities, but Paris is always fun and Barcelona was a blast.
A2G: Do you feel any barriers in the music industry due to your sexuality?
BLBL: It’s not as black and white as that, I wouldn’t say. Only when you’re in venues and some other bands are laddy making boring “that’s so gay” comments, which isn’t even homophobia. It’s just fratty humour. I wouldn’t say I feel that that has been a hurdle over anything else.
A2G: What’s currently on your ipod?
BLBL: Arthur Russell (all time fave – Calling Out Of Context), Magnetic Fields (69 Love Songs), Austra, Broadcast, Dubstar and Nova Social.
A2G: What goes through your mind when you play live?
BLBL: It’s weird, I kind of zone out. I tend to get quite lost in it and sometimes I’ll play whole songs and then tune back in before I realise what’s happened. Everything and nothing.
A2G: After people listen to your album, what do you hope they take away from the experience?
BLBL: I hope that it connects with them in some way. The whole record is about connections with people and places, so I hope that the songs reach out and mean something to whoever listens. I hope that they at least feel that it’s made out of love of making music, and from a desire to be a musician not a desire to be famous or jump on a bandwagon.
A2G: What’s the best concert you’ve ever been to?
BLBL: Depeche Mode at Madison Square Garden was immense, and Joanna Newsom with a full orchestra at Barbican, London was mindblowing.
A2G: 5 years from now, what do you want to have on your list of accomplishments?
BLBL: I would like to have recorded another few albums that I’m happy with, I’d have loved to have toured the US, met even more amazing people (the best thing about music and travelling), I’d like to have learned Spanish, and to have made my family proud.
Thanks again Rod for taking the time to answer some questions for us and I am looking forward to seeing your name across the world in bright lights! New York – reserve August 2, 2012 for a special acoustic performance from Bright Light Bright Light at Pianos. Ticket details are forthcoming. “Make Me Believe in Hope” by Bright Light Bright Light is out NOW! Get it and tell a friend!
Stay Connected to BRIGHT LIGHT BRIGHT LIGHT at any of the following links!
If you live in New York, there’s no way you could miss seeing the colorful CLOUDZ by TY on your journeys. What you may not know is that the life of CLOUDZ’ creator Ty is as colorful as the art he creates. Hello! His name is TY and here’s a Q&A that will surely brighten your day.
According2G: Tell us a little about your background.
TY: I’m from a super suburban area in Houston, Texas and went to College at Texas State University in San Marcos, TX (between San Antonio and Austin). I had done tons of community theater since I was in 5th grade and I moved on to semi-professional throughout high-school. I landed my first professional show when I graduated college with a degree in Musical Theater. I packed my bags and headed to the big bad city as soon as I could and got cast in the off-off Broadway production of “The Drowsy Chaperone.” Since the show, I became a personal assistant, fell in love, had my heart broken and built myself back up again. With the help of my friends and the power of music, I overcame. So at this point, I’m pretty fucking unstoppable. I was obsessed with NYC the first time I visited at 18 years old. I knew then that this is where I definitely wanted to spend a good chunk of my time living. From a young age, I knew all I wanted to be was an artist. Whatever it meant, I wanted it. To create, paint, sculpt, act, draw, sing….it didn’t matter.