Print Edition: July 17, 2013
Sometimes our fears are like sandstorms. They shroud our view, blur our perceptions of reality and prevent us from moving forward.
In a sandstorm, you lose direction; you may get lost. Similarly, as any Star Wars fan knows, fear also leads one astray – to the dark side.
Sith Happens occurred last Saturday at The Reach gallery. The focus of the event was the exhibition Sandstorm, a collection of Star Wars paintings by pop culture artist Chris Woods. The paintings focus on a perspective from the dark side – that of Darth Vader’s.
In his artist statement, Woods describes his intentions.
“[The] images will illustrate what instills fear in Vader’s mind and will allow us a window on what motivates him,” Woods writes. “By assuming the perspective of Darth Vader I hope to examine how self-deception becomes a malignancy to the individual so virulent that it not only consumes its perceived ‘enemies’ but eventually itself.”
At Sith Happens, Woods spoke over the hordes of Star Wars fans and gallery-goers, describing the reasons behind his paintings in detail. With a costumed storm trooper in tow, he stopped at the painting that has become the icon of his exhibition, “Dead Soldiers.”
A massive painting, at 80 inches tall and 160 inches wide, it depicts the lifeless bodies of the identical Star Wars stormtroopers strewn about a bunker hallway. Initially from a deleted scene, Woods saw the image as a massacre scene. He explained that it shows the effects of Vader’s pervasive fear and anger taken out on the faceless and nameless people, a recurring scene and theme in the history of leaders.
At Sith Happens Woods also held a behind-the-scenes event. He sketched in charcoal and spoke in depth about his own fears and his trials as an artist. His words resonated with the fears at the heart of perfectionism.
“Fear is one of my worst motivators. I find it tough to work, because I’m scared. I don’t want to do it wrong. I want to make sure everything is perfect the first time,” Woods said.“I was letting my little abilities that I had, I was letting those sort of do the heavy lifting and I was just kind of sitting back being a little whiner about it.”
Moving from a photorealistic style to a looser artistic one for Sandstorm, he pushed himself to move past the need for perfection. In order to do so, he picked up the unforgiving medium of charcoal.
“Charcoal is so imprecise. It teaches you how to work quickly and allow it to be its own thing. It doesn’t have to be a perfect copy. You’re allowed to be messy, you’re allowed to do a lousy job,” he said. “It’s remarkably freeing. When you’re allowed to make mistakes you get a lot more done.”
Through his methods of letting go, Woods managed to go from one to two paintings every two to three months, to one painting about every two weeks.
Vader overcame his fear in the end, and it looks like Woods has too.