The star of L.A.-based artist Lekit's Opheleia looks like she's had a brutal day. Her cheeks are sunken, her eyes dazed. Her dress falls off her shoulders, revealing an impressive tattoo collection, many of which are related to Star Wars. Cigarette smoke rises up towards her disheveled Princess Leia-inspired hairstyle. “She's the ultimate Star Wars fan,” says Lekit, who only goes by her first name.
You know that feeling you get when you're marathoning your way through the entire Star Wars collection? Lekit describes it as being “all strung out” and that's what she wanted to capture in Opheleia. It's intense. Being a Star Wars fan can be intense. At the same time Disney sent out its official press release that J.J. Abrams would be directing a seventh film in the franchise, as fans were debating the appropriateness of giving Star Wars to a Star Trek director, crowds had gathered at Guilty Studios in Atwater Village to check out a whole lot of art based on the famed movies. There was no cheeky title for the event, just a simple “Star Wars Themed Art Show” promoted by local artists Deadmundo and Sketch and filled with paintings, digital art, sculpture and even photography.
Inside the venue, it was Star Wars re-imagined for Los Angeles, where oil portraits mixed with comic book-inspired pieces, tattoo references and pin-up art. Lekit's twin sister, Leka Im, went the pin-up route, posing her Leia up against a Stormtrooper ice cream cone. The sisters, who were born in Thailand and raised in the L.A. area, have been Star Wars fans since childhood. Getting to be a part of this show, Leka says, is “an opportunity to bring out what we love everyday.”
“We're totally nerding out tonight,” adds Lekit.
Edmundo “Deadmundo” Duran and Oscar “Sketch” Navarro have been putting together art shows for the past four years. The two artists/promoters attended Cal State Northridge together and started out with shows held on the patios of L.A. bars. They tired of that after a while and, last year, beefed up the events. They got some art spaces involved — Guilty was actually the site of their first big show — and sponsors like Pabst Blue Ribbon. Deadmundo and Sketch shows, which usually happen monthly at different venues, are often themed. Previously, they've covered Batman, skulls, Lotería and lots of zombies. Navarro estimates that they've put together more than 10 shows revolving around zombies
Duran and Navarro get a lot of suggestions for future events. Actually, they've gotten a lot of suggestions for a Star Wars show. Even though neither promoter considers himself a big fan of the film franchise, they decided to make it work. “We listen to what people want,” says Duran.
The Star Wars show has been in the works for about a year. “We had to keep postponing and postponing it until we just wanted to do it already,” says Duran. They put out an open call for artist submissions that brought in 140 hopefuls. Only 40 made the final cut. The promoters estimated that roughly half of the artists were new to their shows. Some, like Lekit and Leka, have been featured in multiple Deadmundo and Sketch events.
Duran says that “diversity” was key for this show. “We were looking for variations of characters, not just the more popular characters, the ones that you have to know Star Wars to recognize.”
Adds Navarro, “We wanted original representations of the characters.”
Ultimately, diversity is what they got, from a Millennium Falcon covered in Aztec symbols to a Day of the Dead Vader helmet that glows in the dark to a couple commentaries on Disney's acquisition of Lucasfilm. It was the sort of clever, eclectic approach to pop culture fanaticism that has come to mark L.A.'s contribution to art.