Artist inserts monsters, UFOs into vintage images
PITTSBURGH >> The Sept. 2 fire that seared part of the Liberty Bridge and snarled traffic for weeks thereafter is no one’s idea of an event that would provoke laughs and merriment.
Just hours after it happened, though, Matthew Buchholz was able to provide some levity. The artist who lives in the Friendship neighborhood in Pittsburgh grabbed an image of black smoke pouring from the span and, using Photoshop, inserted an image of Godzilla belching flames onto it. In no time, it was ricocheting around the Web, being shared on social media and reminding people that, yes, there was some humor to be had in the face of near catastrophe and weeks of inconvenience.
“It just made sense,” said Buchholz, who shares his living space with an energetic dog named Otis. “I heard the news and saw multiple pictures of the bridge on fire with smoke billowing off it, and it almost looked like something I would have created. All it was missing was the monster . I was surprised as anyone when it blew up on social media.”
There are plenty of other images where that one came from. Since 2010, Buchholz has made a name for himself as the proprietor of Alternate Histories, for which he mostly uses aged maps and black-and-white photos unearthed at flea markets or from the recesses of the Internet as his canvas, and the computer program Adobe Photoshop as his brush.
Fusing his fascination with history and his affection for Z-grade horror and science fiction movies from the 1950s and 1960s, Buchholz. For instance, he found a photo of High Street in Columbus, Ohio, taken in 1905 with carriages being pulled by horses and people nonchalantly going about their business. He added, just above the scene, a flying saucer. It is using, according to a description provided by Buchholz, an electro-ray transporter “rather than having to land on the rough-hewn, horse-trodden streets of the still-growing city.”
Then there’s a mock movie poster he created for a movie called “The Revenge of Abraham Lincoln,” which has the nation’s 16th president as a 200-foot tall monster “back to settle his own scores.” His “movie” stars Peter Graves and Edward G. Robinson and is directed by Orson Welles.
The poster was “a very specific and very weird idea, to try to do the inverse of what I had normally been doing, which was to insert a 1950s-style monster into an historic image,” he said. “I had this idea that the reverse of that would be to insert an historic figure into a 1950s-style movie poster. Lincoln’s iconic look made him a natural for the idea.”
Growing up in Tucson, Ariz., Buchholz was nourished on a diet of monster and flying saucer movies that he stumbled across at local video stores or saw on “Mystery Science Theater 3000” on Comedy Central. His affection for movies like “Manos: The Hands of Fate” and “Plan 9 From Outer Space,” led him to New York University and its renowned cinema studies program, which served as a launching pad for filmmakers like Spike Lee, Martin Scorsese and Joel Coen.