Wax on, wax off: T.O.’s ode to Madame Tussaud
Celebrity posters popping up around town as part of art project
Recent celebrity sightings around town have been lighting up Toronto Instagram feeds and Facebook walls. But look closer and you’ll notice: Britney Spears’ lopsided breast, Justin Bieber looking more Ken doll than kid mogul, both trapped in billboard frames generally reserved for commercial ads. Posted outside grocery and convenience stores across Bloorcourt village and Toronto’s west end with gallery-like precision are the waxy visages of Hollywood’s A-listers.
These familiar faces are part of a series called Uncanny Valley, by Peter Andrew Lusztyk, a Toronto-based commercial and artistic photographer and professor at Sheridan College. Referring to the theory that a humanoid replica that appears almost — but not entirely — like the real thing can produce feelings of unease, the Uncanny Valley collection comprises images shot at Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum in Las Vegas. The idea came to Lusztyk from a conversation he had with a colleague. “We were talking about how you could have 200 portrait photos in your portfolio, and if you had one portrait of a famous person, that would be the photo they would remember,” says Lusztyk. “So I thought it would be interesting to find accurate replicas of these people, and shoot them in a way where people would be duped into thinking that they were looking at the real thing.”
Recently, Lusztyk posted seven portraits, including Sandra Bullock smiling demurely outside the Unico Foto Grocery on Ossington Avenue, Britney Spears baring her décolletage around the corner from Bloor Mini Mart and Zach Galifianakis outside the AGP Mart at Bloor and Lansdowne. The photos are precisely measured and printed to fit the existing billboard specifications, providing a stark contrast from other forms of street art, which in Toronto is traditionally associated with larger, vibrant murals.
“Rather than just plastering them on stuff, it was almost like an outdoor gallery that was vacant,” says Lusztyk. “It also started a conversation. People really wanted to know if this was for a movie or a product.”
Since he started this project, Lusztyk estimates that around five have been stolen.
Photos depicting wax replicas of celebrities have caught the eye of locals and local thieves