Art show ‘The Power of the Force’ premieres Friday

Patrick Dunn
Special to The Detroit News
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Jason Gibner has been a “Star Wars” fan for even longer than he can remember.

In 1978, the 2-year-old Gibner was obsessed with an R2-D2 toy, so his mother took him to see the original “Star Wars” movie in the theater.

“According to the story, I didn’t move once,” the Milan resident says. “It’s never gone away, really … I’ve never been able to stop loving it.”

Gibner is one of eight local artists who will showcase the artistic products of their passion for the iconic film franchise Friday at the UFO Factory in “The Power of the Force,” a one-night “Star Wars”-themed art show.

The show was prompted by the impending release of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” the latest installment in the series. UFO Factory owner Dion Fischer curated the show with Gibner and Ann Arbor artist Jeremy Wheeler, whom he describes as “my distant ‘Star Wars’ nerd brothers.” Born in 1972, Fischer says the original “Star Wars” is his first memory.

“For me, before rock ‘n’ roll and art, there was ‘Star Wars,’ ” he says. “Having an art venue and music venue, with the excitement that myself and everyone has about the return of ‘Star Wars,’ it was pretty obvious that it was time to bring it back.”

Fischer, Gibner and Wheeler contributed artwork to the show and recruited a variety of other exhibitors, including local licensed “Star Wars” artists Matt Busch and Lin Zy.

“Our mandate when we contacted artists was to be bold,” Gibner says. “Think big. Make it recognizably ‘Star Wars,’ but don’t just trace a picture of Luke Skywalker. Get crazy with it.”

Gibner’s contribution to the show will be conventional in tone, but large in scale. Over the past six years, he’s built a presence at local art and craft fairs selling his simple, cartoonish renderings of beloved movie characters and musicians. Naturally, many of them have been “Star Wars” characters; Gibner estimates that he’s painted between 50 and 100 characters from the series. For “The Power of the Force,” he’s assembled a mosaic of 16 of his paintings, with cartoon portraits of characters spanning the six existing “Star Wars” films and the upcoming seventh.

Hamtramck artist Matt DeLight took Gibner’s directive to “get crazy” to just about the furthest extreme imaginable with his contribution to the show. DeLight portrays “Star Wars” creator George Lucas as the furry sidekick Chewbacca, assuming a pose cribbed from a “Playgirl” magazine. DeLight says the piece is a humorous way of addressing his longstanding enthusiasm for “Star Wars,” as well as his frustrations with Lucas over the franchise’s much-maligned prequel trilogy.

“Because it’s a cultural phenomenon, everyone has so many opinions and takes on it,” he says. “I don’t feel that way about any other movie franchise, that it can get under my skin and just make me mad.”

DeLight expresses excitement to see what his fellow exhibitors have dreamed up for the show, noting that he’s expecting a lot of “bizarre love letters” to the franchise.

“At this point, ‘Star Wars’ has been with us for so long,” he says. “It’s like a legacy. It’s almost like a very weird, complicated girlfriend.”

The Power of the Force

7 p.m. Friday-2 a.m. Saturday

UFO Factory

2110 Trumbull, Detroit


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