All Articles
All Articles

Travis Louie: Strange Discoveries

The master creature conjurer and visual storyteller brings his strange new characters to Los Angeles

by Julie Wolfson
on 08 November 2013
TravisLouie-03a.jpg TravisLouie-03b.jpg

In Travis Louie's imaginary world strange creatures and humans exist side-by-side—and are even sometimes morphed together into one. While much of his work offers a fictional recreation of the family portraits that do not exist in his superstitious Chinese American family, his new show "Strange Discoveries" was inspired by the “weird things” Louie discovered after his father passed away. “I won't say exactly what because some of it is kind of personal, but it was like finding out someone had a secret identity,” shared Louie. “My dad was a dreamer who never got to live out his dreams.”

In a method learned while working for a photo re-toucher, Louie employs a watercolor technique with transparent washes of acrylic paint, all with layers of graphite underneath. With each series of paintings, Louie reveals the inner workings of his imagination and the characters and creatures who live there. “Although there have been times that the character comes before the story, I often come up with a simple idea for a story, and then the character kind of develops from there,” explained Louie. “I sketch out what the character would look like and then if it is strong enough, I move forward to a painting.”


In "Strange Discoveries" a man stands next to a massive insect flopped onto its back. He gazes out looking concerned, but not afraid. Louie describes the story in this painting in great detail. “In late summer of 1894, Clark Stephenson heard a loud noise in the middle of the night. It sounded like one of the trees lost a large branch and it struck the house. He decided he was too tired to investigate the noise and went back to sleep. The next morning, he made a startling discovery. An enormous insect attached itself to the left side of his house, just below the chimney. It was motionless and appeared to have passed on, but its claws were embedded into the wood siding on the house and it was difficult to pry it loose. He quickly dispatched a small work crew to remove it. It was then brought to the attention of the Royal Entomology Society, which held a special meeting to discuss this incredibly rare find. As a photograph was taken of it with Mr. Stephenson standing proudly next to it for scale, a loud gasp was heard from the members in attendance when they made the discovery that the specimen was really just the exoskeleton and a giant insect was probably flying around London.”

TravisLouie-02a.jpg TravisLouie-02b.jpg

Another painting in the soon-to-open show tells the story of a Miss Sophie, a young woman who upset the people around her by having an uncontrollable urge to say inappropriate things, especially at church and funerals. A local tinkerer created a special helmet for her that he claimed could block "evil thought rays." Miraculously, it seemed to work. According to Louie, “Despite becoming an object of ridicule for many years, she wore that helmet proudly day and night. Eventually it became fashionable for ladies to wear unmanageable headgear during the late 1890s and she blended right in.”

"Strange Discoveries" opens on tomorrow, 9 November, at Merry Karnowsky Gallery in Los Angeles and will be on view until 7 December 2013.

Images courtesy of Travis Louie

The CH25 is a showcase of creators and innovators from a broad range of disciplines who are currently working to drive the world forward.

LaToya Ruby Frazier

Documenting the slow, troubling change in Braddock, Pennsylvania

Read More
I am not a journalist, I am a conceptual documentary artist using my visual expression for building narratives that are unseen and unheard

Roxie Darling

From un-shampoo to transgender identity, the NYC colorist boldly defining the next chapter of hair

Read More
Hair color is as much a science as it is a craft

Sarah Kunst

The entrepreneur single-handedly changing the landscape for women in tech

Read More
People who live on a planet that is half women but can never seem to find any when they need one, I have solved your problem

Vanessa Newman

Redesigning pregnancy for the post-gender generation with Butchbaby & Co.

Read More
I want my customers to feel comfortable and unchanged, in that becoming pregnant didn't take away from or compromise their identity

Cynthia Breazeal

How an emotional, empathetic robot named Jibo stands to revolutionize communication

Read More
The thing that's so provocative about social robots is that it's fundamentally a community technology

Kegan Schouwenburg

Revolutionizing orthotics through 3D-printed insoles

Read More
What orthotics do is they effectively change the geometry of what your alignment is like

Pauline van Dongen

The Dutch designer blazing the wearable technology path

Read More
I’m fascinated by concepts of change, movement, energy and perception; since they are closely related to the way we experience the world

Douglas Riboud + Justin Guilbert

How a mission to create great coconut water led to a whole new way of doing business

Read More
We’ve made a conscious decision to be as transparent and honest as we can, and let people decide for themselves

Lulu Mickelson

A civic leader bringing change to NYC through design

Read More
Human-centered design is one of the many tools that we can use to better engage the public

Tal Danino

The bioengineer who’s programming DNA to fight cancer

Read More
[Manipulating genes] is very new, people are just learning how to program these organisms

Jonathan Sparks

Reinventing electronic music by inventing multi-disciplinary instruments

Read More
Recorded music is becoming so cheap, so the value of music is now in live performance

Joshua Harker

Pushing the boundaries of sculpture with intricate 3D printing

Read More
My intent was to explore and depict the architecture of the imagination, to interpret and share forms evident in the mind’s eye

Kathleen Supové

The NYC performance artist who’s radically reinventing the piano recital

Read More
I like pieces that are virtuosic, that show off the piano and what it can do, and are awe-inspiring

Alex Kalman

The tiny museum in Manhattan that’s redefining museums

Read More
The mission is to put this small simple and powerful tool into the hands of as many people as possible

Matt Kenyon

Fusing art and technology to disrupt concepts of corporate America

Read More
I want the work to live in the world and circulate, so it can generate more dialogue

Meredith Perry

How searching the Internet helped a 22-year-old invent wireless electricity

Read More
It’s not about where the information is, it’s about how you use the tools

Dan Barasch + James Ramsey

A quest to make the future brighter—underground

Read More
We both share a passion for groundbreaking technology and a shared love of New York

Leopoldine Huyghues Despointes

The young filmmaker and non-profit founder who just wants people to follow their dreams

Read More
I feel confident and ready to accomplish so much more, the movement is on

Marcus Weller

Using technology to turn motorcycle helmet design on its head

Read More
I was taken aback both by the number of people that doubted it, and by the equally large number of people that got behind it

Tarren Wolfe

The next-generation appliance making kitchens greener—literally

Read More
Our goal is to provide food for everyone in the world, and the best place to start is in our very own community

Corinne Joachim Sanon

The chocolatier bringing social change to Haiti and bean-to-bar chocolate to the world

Read More
Seeing the poverty surrounding me and the lack of jobs and opportunity bothered me

Melissa Kushner

Addressing the needs of orphans and vulnerable children in Malawi through microenterprise

Read More
Poverty is complicated, there is an increasing temptation and pressure in the development space to oversimplify things

Eelke Plasmeijer

The locally driven restaurant that’s upending Balinese food culture

Read More
We really try to keep things simple and let the produce do the talking

George Arriola and Monohm

An heirloom electronic for the post-smartphone era

Read More
We agonized during the design process as all hyper-obsessed craftspeople should

Sabine Seymour

A future where smart clothes are as ubiquitous as zippers

Read More
In the future you will not buy a piece of 'functional' clothing without SoftSpot
Loading More...