From pin-ups to puppets
Greg Hildebrandt’s new series of creepy ventriloquist puppet portraits is a change of direction and laments the deterioration of childhood
Greg Hildebrandt, along with his late brother, Tim, made a name for themselves producing Star Wars and Lord of the Rings art during the 1970s. More recently, Greg painted a series of cheesecake pin-ups, entitled American Beauties which seem a far cry from his current project, Dark Dolls, a collection of paintings with a rather disconcerting subject: creepy puppets.
Greg’s love of puppets began with an animated puppet circus that ran inside the entire length of a barbershop. From there he developed an obsession and his puppet collection has continued to grow. Before his 75th birthday, Greg decided to begin a series of art that represented his childhood.
He sees the past as “crumbling” as he watched his puppets sit on his shelves for years, drying out, cracking and decaying. To him it resembled the fragility of his childhood and the city he grew up in, Detroit, which has turned from a friendly neighbourhood to a “war zone.”
“We watch our past disappear,” he laments. “As I paint my puppets I can freeze time and stop the decay. I guess I’m saving a piece of my past.” Greg imagines his puppets coming to life at night: “They are real and so I paint them as if they are real. This, I believe, is what makes them scary to most people. I’m not trying to make them scary. I’m painting their portraits.”
The artist doesn’t want to be known for “only one or two things” in his career. “I enjoy change in my art,” he says. “I love the idea there’s always something unknown and unseen around the corner. And I don’t want to know what it is until I get there.”
You can see more of Greg and Tim’s work at www.brothershildebrandt.com.
Greg’s extensive figurine collection: “In the 1930s and ’40s you could win these chalk figures at carnivals. They were knocked-out figures made of plaster, spray-painted and covered in glitter.”
For Greg, puppets represent the past and specifically childhood,
“crumbling” on a shelf.
Above, one of two portrait paintings of the dolls on this page (though they’re easily mistaken for photos!)
Dark lighting is important in these paintings. At night
Greg sees them come alive on his