Artist in­serts mon­sters, UFOs into vin­tage im­ages

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - NEWS - By Brad Hundt

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.

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