‘Heroes + Villains,’ all grown up
Philip Bonneau debuts third exhibit of comic, Disney characters
Heroes. Villains. From comic books to Disney films, from He-Man and Skeletor to the Little Mermaid and Ursula, so many iconic childhood stories are divided into these two character types, one good, one evil, each needing the other to exist.
“Everyone has a choice to live life as a hero or a villain. I do think some people can lean either way, but predominantly remain in the gray area. All of that is relative really and that answer is something that only we can ask ourselves,” says Atlanta photographer Philip Bonneau, whose new exhibit, “Heroes + Villains 3” opens Nov. 16 at Inherent Design Lab, and includes each of those characters and many more.
“I think in the context of this series, especially this show, that there is no good or evil present in these characters,” he continues. “I think it is very successful at finding beauty in even the most villainous of characters.”
Bonneau created “Heroes + Villains” as a four-part series, calling it “basically a metaphor for life and growing into who I am.”
“If you look at my first show, it is very innocent, very childlike. With H+V2, it was almost like the teenage years being a little bit more elaborate, pushes some buttons and a hint of sexuality but it still was unsure of itself,” he says. “With this new show, it represents adulthood. It represents being truly confident in who you are and owning it.”
Kickstarting his art
Confidence isn’t the only difference in “Heroes + Villains 3.” For the earlier installments, each photo shoot was created on a shoestring budget.
“With this new show, I always knew thematically that it was to be the spectacle and shock show that needed to advance from the $10-20 budget I had previously for each shoot,” Bonneau says.
He spent a month promoting his project on Kickstarter.com, a fundraising website for creative projects, and was amazed by the results.
“I even went as far as posting a picture of myself naked holding up a sign asking for help when I truly thought the goal was not going to be met,” Bonneau recalls. “In the end, help is what I got. With over 221 donors, predominantly from Atlanta, but all throughout the world, I raised $15,970.
“The national attention and support was definitely an overwhelming experience,” he says.
Five months later, Bonneau presents his labor of love, which he describes as including more Disney and pop culture characters than his past exhibits, as well as more models dressed in drag, which he says helps “create a complete escape from reality.”
“There is sexuality present,” he adds. “There are pieces that would be uncomfortable to see, but in the end it is about finding beauty in even the strangest of things. For the first time you truly get a sense of Heroes + Villains as a thriving world of individuality where the models are truly alive in these images.”
A night to give back
Heroes + Villains 3 opens Nov. 16 and runs through Dec. 7 at Inherent Design Lab.
“The opening event is the only way to see this show as the artist intended,” Bonneau says.
All 50 pieces will hang together that night, with framed wall prints and comic book prints available.
“Some pieces that really are risque will only be up for that evening and I’ve gone as far as even getting some of the models from the images to perform live at the opening in character such as Dylan Micheal as Cruella De’Ville and DJ Chris Griswold is spinning music dressed as Ironman from H+V1,” Bonneau says.
A silent auction of the art will benefit AID Atlanta.
“This show was made possible by the entire community and it was very important for me to give it back to the community,” he explains.
And as the show reaches the public, Bon- ‘Heroes + Villains’ Friday, Nov. 16, 7-11 p.m. Inherent Design Lab 996 Huff Road NW, Suite C Atlanta, GA 30318 http://on.fb.me/RJ0kwt neau is already thinking about Heroes + Villains 4, the “swan song of the series.”
“It’s the end of life and looking back at what you have done with it. Were you good to yourself? Did you accomplish everything you wanted? It will be completely different from all the others with models being all starting at roughly the age 60,” he says. “From an artist perspective, it is supposed to be the point in my work where I have gone through this incredible journey and I decide what to do with my life from there.”
In the meantime, Bonneau hopes that viewers take from his third show the knowledge that “we are all beautiful and worthy of being showcased and admired.”
“I think I leave it up to the viewer to take what they want from it. There are definitely many, many layers to this show. They can look at it as a satirical character study or a story about more accurately about the models themselves,” he says.
“They have an option to treat me as a hero or a villain, but in the end these incredible characters coexist with one another.”
My Little Pony and Maleficent from ‘Sleeping Beauty’ are two of the characters portrayed in the third installment of Philip Bonneau’s ‘Heroes + Villains’ series.(Photos by Philip Bonneau)