Wax on, wax off: T.O.’s ode to Madame Tus­saud

Celebrity posters pop­ping up around town as part of art pro­ject

North York Post - - News - by Jes­sica Wei

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

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