A few months ago, a close friend of mine on Facebook changed his facebook page. At first glance, it seemed as if he had changed his photo to one of Prince, the musician. It looked as if Prince was on the same Purple Harley Davidson that he sat on on the cover of his iconic album and movie of the same name, Purple Rain. Since many of my close friends share my obsession with Prince’s music and related culture, this wasn’t too strange EXCEPT for the fact that there was no Prince-related event to associate with the change. No birthdays, no new albums, no concert tours, NADA. So, it did strike me as a bit strange.
Upon closer inspection, I noticed the image seemed a little (no pun intended) too…well..perfect. It seemed like a doll of some sort. So, with that, I reached out to my friend and learned of Seattle based artist, Troy Gua. Upon arriving at Troy’s website which was only a click away, I was floored. Period. I immediately got it.
You see, on Troy’s site, he describes his own love of everything Prince and also goes into great detail about the object of my desire, Le Petit Prince, which is an intricately crafted tiny scaled down sculpted version of the aforementioned music legend, Prince Rogers Nelson. Yes, that Prince. After picking my jaw off the floor, I dug into every photo, every word and just felt warm inside. I immediately began thinking of how Prince would feel about LPP.
In recent years, some would argue that Prince has been less than fan friendly in some ways while also serving fans with some of the most incredible live performances of his career. We all know that he is extremely protective of his intellectual property and his control of his image and music, etc. That said, I don’t think even he would be able to avoid smiling at the incredible uncanny resemblance of LPP to himself. He has to know that Troy has done this out of love and admiration and all those that will hopefully now be enlightened by this work share his feelings. The painstaking detail that goes into the design and production of LPP and his extensive hand sewn wardrobe underscores Troy’s passion and skill as an artist.
We are delighted to be able to chat with him a bit about himself and of course, Le Petit Prince. As you will see, Troy’s warm and friendly personality shine through. Enjoy and support this brother at his shop!
Ron: What made you want to create LPP?
Troy: Quite simply, I just wanted to make something that was going to bring me joy and at the same time pay a loving and playful tribute to the man that has had the most influence on my life, outside of my father. But the inspiration for the project was planted a long time ago. I was always fascinated by the work of Gerry Anderson, who made the most amazing series of sci-fi marionette films in the 1960s, and who, in turn influenced Matt Stone and Trey Parkers Team America film – which I am a HUGE fan of.
When that came out, my buddy and I immediately wanted to make marionette versions of ourselves. We did, and they were a little crude, but it was a blast. Since then Ive made a few others, knowing that at some point I was going to tackle Prince, but daunted by the notion that I was going to have to make it soooo perfect. I just knew that if I was going to do it, it had to be absolutely spot on.
Ron: What was the most challenging aspect of creating LPP?
Troy: I think the main challenge lies in topping myself. I suppose the fabrication of the guitars and wigs is challenging, as is figuring out the best way to recreate certain outfits, but therein lies the fun! Im a pretty resourceful artist, and most of my work is problem solving – whats the best way to make this idea tangible?. For my other work, I either have a vision of a completed piece or an idea to flesh out and then I go about the business of engineering or designing. With the LPP project, there are blueprints to follow, essentially, so its more a question of what can I use to make chest hair? or how the hell am I going to recreate the entire Sign o the Times set?. Did I just go off on a tangent, or did I answer the question?
Ron: Such a great way to pay homage to a hero, how do you think he feels about this?
Troy: Man, I wish I knew. Id love to think he feels honored by it, but I can also see where he may think its inferring hes a character or a caricature of some sort, which is definitely not the intent. Ive tried to put myself in his boots, and it would probably be a little weird to have some cat recreating your career in cartoonish ? scale, but by the same token, I think Id be flattered as hell. I dont know, it could go either or both ways – its a mystery!
Ron: When you thought about doing the Purple Rain cover, did you expect to get the fan response that you did?
Troy: Never. I mean, I never intended the project to evolve the way it has. Its the fan response that has fueled this fire. I originally only intended to make the sculpture/doll with the classic Purple Rain outfit, and that was going to be it. The few pics I had taken and put on my site got picked up by a Prince fan site and I started getting tons of feedback and inquiries and then folks started following me on Twitter and Facebook and asking me to do other eras and looks, and I took it as a challenge and it just snowballed. The project has taken on a life of its own.
Ron: What’s the fan favorite of LPP? Or which pieces have gotten the most praise?
Troy: Boy, they all get pretty good responses – but I think the most praise has been for the Sign o the Times album shoot, which I havent even released the cover recreation for, just an alternate and some outtakes. I think folks can sense the amount of work and detail I put into it.
Ron: You’ve stated that you’d never sewn a thing before creating LPP. How anxious were you about sewing the pieces? Did you expect them to be as great as they were?
Troy: No, never sewed a stitch. I was trying to source a fabricator, but no one would take it on. My wife, Catherine, said you can do it yourself, and then she helped me out with the purple raincoat and I figured out the rest. I was really nervous about it, but Im so glad it happened this way, because no one could stand up to the level of detail I expect and Id be broke by now, for sure! To answer the question about expecting them to be great – I expected them to look like Princes clothes on a ? scale, period. I sort of expect everything I make to be seemless, so to speak.
Ron: Are you planning any other additions to LPP? If so could you elaborate on them?
Troy: Ive been planning a beautiful photo book that Im trying to find a publisher for. Thats job one. Ive got a vault of my own with A LOT of images and eras that no one has seen that Im saving for the book. Before that idea came about, I had planned to make an Apollonia and start filming scenes from Purple Rain – which is the ULTIMATE goal – to remake Purple Rain. Id love to expand on this project and collaborate with filmmakers and fellow artists to make this happen at some point. Would that be cool, or what?
Ron: Whats your favorite Prince record? bootleg?
Troy: Oh man – I love and hate this question. There are just SO MANY. I have to say Erotic City is my number one cut, while album is a toss up between Dirty Mind and Sign o the Times, but Ive been wearing out Come and The Gold Experience lately. Bootleg? Whats that? 😉 Im pretty keen on a Sign o the Times warm up show video a pal hipped me to recently.
Ron: If you ever met Prince, what would you want to talk about?
Troy: Women. o(;-]}
Seriously, Id probably be tongue-tied, so Id let him steer the conversation to start with, but then…Art (including music as well as visual), the concept of immortality, the internet age, and women.
Ron: Growing up, what kind of influence did Prince have on you as an artist?
Troy: The most profound influence. He taught me that its cool to be different, to experiment and to create whatever your spirit moves you to make. But also, while taking those new paths, to be bold, to master those paths, to make it look easy. I wasnt a musician, but I was always an artist, and Princes musical virtuosity has always inspired me to be the best I can be at whatever I choose to do artistically. His ability to defy categorization and labeling has had an enormous impact on me and my work as well, and his eclecticism showed me that I didnt have to stick to one thing, one style, one type of art that it was ok to explore as many ideas and ways of expressing myself as I saw fit. And I do. Hes been the single biggest influence on my life and work.
Ron: Does LPP get fanmail? if so, what was one of the most interesting one?
Troy: I get LPP fanmail all the time, and Fb posts, and Twitter posts. The most interesting are the marriage proposals…to the doll. YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE! o(;-]}
Ron: Which era/look of Prince’s do you like the most? least?
Troy: Hmmm…Im sorta diggin the present day looks with the futuristic printed tunics and such – I kinda feel like I could work some of that myself. Otherwise, I loved the cartoonish outrageousness of the Lovesexy era. Least favorite? The Starter jacketed, goateed, psuedo jock Prince of the Emancipation era. But thats just me – I like him funky and a little crazy.
Ron: Can you elaborate on some other ways you want to get LPP out to larger audiences?
Troy: Im really dying to have an exhibition in an amazing visual art space (or spaces) with all the work in photo form on the walls, with vitrines holding the sets and props and wardrobe, and with LPP himself spinning amid stage fog and concert lights behind velvet ropes. I think it would be a fantastic experience for the viewer. I think its hard not to smile when you look at this project, and thats what a show would bring – big smiles. Id love to be able to bring a show like this to different cities for a month or two at a time. Also, a big book release, subsequent talk show appearances, Prince commissioning LPP album cover art, the works. I dream big.
Ron: Have you ever thought about doing anything similar to LPP with another individual/character?
Troy: I have, but if I do it, it wont be for quite a while. I wouldnt want to take anything away from LPP, and there really is no one that holds the weight of influence on me that Prince has, so it wouldnt make sense to try and recreate this project with another entity. Having said that, Id love to make a little Bowie someday. Hes a big influence.
Ron: You made the one and only little Prince doll, right? how long did that take?
Troy: *Hold up 4 fingers
Just kiddin – to sculpt the head and acquire and paint and assemble and hair up – about a week or so.
Ron: Did you ever think about making more than one doll?
Troy: Not until I started getting bombarded with requests. But until I get Princes consent, I cant and wont do it. Plus, it makes conceptual sense for the project that there is one and only one Le Petit Prince, just as there is one and only Prince.
Ron: What does Le Petit Prince do on a daily basis? (where is the doll?)
Troy: Oh, you know, he chills, gazes in the mirror, decides what to wear, what to wear *next*. When hes not getting his hair did or posing for photos, he stands on a pedestal in the corner of our living room, looking funky as hell.
Ron: What’s next from Troy Gua? What can your fans expect from you in the future?
Troy: Well, I want to spend the next couple of months filling in gaps and completing and shooting certain looks and eras to complete the book project. After that, well see – I think LPP will take a sabattical. I need to make work for an upcoming solo show in Cleveland next spring and concentrate on getting my work into other markets – Ive got a ton of different work that I need to get out into the world and spread to the four winds.
Check out this mini documentary, which is an approximately two hour time lapse video of the creation of a 1/6 scale version of Prince’s outfit from his performance of ‘Hot Thing’ in the 1987 ‘Sign o’ the Times’ concert film for artist Troy Gua’s sculptural doll tribute project, ‘Le Petit Prince’.