Artist Mike Leavitt is literally a Star Wars kid. He was born in 1977, the same year A New Hope was released, and his parents got divorced in 1980, the year of The Empire Strikes Back. Like many kids who were raised in the late ’70s and early ’80s, the characters of Star Wars exist in a place in Leavitt’s mind that is usually reserved for real-life figures.
Leavitt is not unique in this. To the Star Wars generation, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Darth Vader feel just as real, if not more so, than Barack Obama, Hilary Clinton, and Mahatma Gandhi. It is this mental distinction between beloved fictional characters who feel real and real-life people who feel fictional that Leavitt explores in his latest project, Empire Peaks, which mashes up popular Star Wars characters with celebrities and politicians.
According to Leavitt’s artist’s statement, in Empire Peaks, he has aimed to reduce modern political dynasties to a sci-fi soap opera. In Leavitt’s weird parallel version of Star Wars, Martin Luther King holds Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber aloft, while a Yoda-ish Mahatma Gandhi preaches passive resistance with the motto: “Do or do not. There is no try.” C-3PO becomes Steve-Threepi-Jobs, while R2-D2 becomes a repulsive, biomechanical Einstein head.
Kim Jong Il, meanwhile, makes a magnificently oily, glutinous Jabba, keeping Angelina Jolie as a double-mastectomied Slave Leia on his chain. Meanwhile, beneath Darth Vader’s helmet, Donald Trump wears an even more artificial and shiny hair helmet, and Sarah Palin plays the Dark Lord Of The Sith.
There’s definitely something discomfiting about Leavitt’s work, as he grotesquely blends reality and fiction into a subversive universe all his own. Even so, you have to admit that Barack Obama makes a killer Lando.
You can see more of Leavitt’s work here.