Photos (except for the “Le Petit Prince” series, which were taken from Google Images) courtesy of Troy Gua.
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.
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.
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”.
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?
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.
A2G: After the Prince debacle, you wasted no time and designed your own line of customizable T-shirts? Please tell us about them and what made you go this route?
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)