San Francisco artist Robert Xavier Burden thinks big when he paints. His inspiration is toys.
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"This body of work came about 10 years ago when I was going through a box of my old toys that I played with as a kid and I hadn't seen in a long time," Burden said. "As a kid they were like sacred talismans. They were magical and they were larger than life and I wanted to try to recapture that."
Among his pieces getting a lot of attention recently is a massive painting of "Star Wars" action figures. It tells the story of the movies. The price tag is $200,000, but smaller pieces can be had for a $1,000.
"Star Wars' toys were so important to a generation, of the world. You know men between the ages of 30 and 55 seem to have a really fond memory of these things. And I am no different," said Burden.
Burden merges historical traditions to elevate his art, creating tapestry, or stain glass-like images.
"'The 20th Century Space Opera,' which depicts about a 160 different 'Star Wars' toys, it took about 2,000 hours of studio time spread out over about a year and a half."
Burden makes his paintings pop by first painting each character in blue, and then carefully layering color to create almost life-like images.
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Matt Silady is the chair of the comics program at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco.
"When I look at Roberts work, I don't just see nostalgia, I see an exploration of the things that shaped him as an artist," Silady said.
Silady says "Star Wars" had a huge impact on art.
"So, pre-"Star Wars" pop culture art featured a lot of commercialism. It was sort of a reflection of the modern world. Post-"Star Wars", you saw science-fiction as a legitimate form of art," Silady said.
"I think it is really difficult to get anyone to stare at a painting for more than 20 seconds. Part of the goal of this is to make a painting that someone can stare at for a few minutes," Burden said.
Next month some of Burden's work will be on display starting Jan. 17 at the Bedford Gallery at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek, Calif.
Written and produced by Ken Miguel.
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