By Lauren Dantella, Point Park News Service:
Whenever Matthew Buchholz watched his friend’s Lawrenceville gift shop, he would send her emails saying, “Everything is alright” – along with computer-edited images of monsters wreaking havoc.
Interested in history, the New York University film graduate would research old maps and prints while working at the store.
Then one day, he looked at a vintage photograph of Pittsburgh and his mind started churning.
“I had this idea to put this giant Godzilla monster into it,” Buchholz said. “I had been using Photoshop for years for different things, and I put the monster in, and I aged the monster to make it look like it was always part of the city.”
Buchholz left the print on the desk of his friend, Rebecca Morris. She thought it was odd of him to print out what seemed like a random picture of Pittsburgh … until she found the Godzilla hidden among the city skyline.
She encouraged him to make more altered images, taking other old photographs and maps and using computer-editing to seamlessly incorporate monsters, zombies, UFOs and other creatures.
Morris offered him a show in a gallery space at her store, WildCard, after an artist dropped out.
“[Guests] thought it was hilarious and funny, and that they had never seen anything like it,” said Morris, 33, of Lawrenceville.
Now Buchholz’s first book, “Alternate Histories of the World,” debuts in October. The book will feature new work, along with some old favorites, and longer stories for each.
Some works that can be seen in the book include the robot that helped write the Declaration of Independence, a map of the hidden “Monster Island,” and the zombies that inspired Shakespeare.
Buchholz said he finds inspiration in old prints and maps that catch his eye. With each image, he writes a short text of the events as he imagines them. In every story, he draws from real historical facts and adds his own twist.
“The whole thing was started from initially a lot of Pittsburgh history,” he said. “From the very first show I did, there was a lot of that, explaining how this monster was unearthed from a lot of the coal mining in the region. It’s always expanded to where I try to incorporate actual history into everything I do, and that’s evolved into the book.”
Morris said WildCard will feature a window display of a cardboard robot trampling a pint-sized Pittsburgh in honor of the book, which will be featured at the store. Wild Card will hold a book signing and trunk show with Buchholz on Oct. 12. Proceeds go to Animal Friends of Pittsburgh.
Kurt Shaw, 46, the owner of Shaw Galleries, Downtown, curates actual antique prints, such as the ones Buchholz uses as canvases for his work. Shaw first noticed Buchholz’s work in a press release for the initial show at WildCard.
“Artists have mined history and cultural history for the past 150 years, so it doesn’t surprise me to see something like his,” Shaw said. “The images are available copyright-free seven years after the death of the copyright holder. So it’s out there for people to use – and to use it creatively, I think, is a good thing.”
Because Buchholz’s first show was such a success, he went on to present his work at the Pittsburgh craft show, Handmade Arcade.
“It was such an overwhelming experience because I thought this would just be a fun hobby or something enjoyable on the side,” Buchholz said. “But to think, ‘Wow, this could really be something I do like career-wise,’ was really a turning point for me.”