Arizona ArtBeat: America Pop Art

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A new exhibit at the Tempe Center for the Arts highlights the influences of comic books, television, movies and science fiction. “American Pop: Comic Books to Science Fiction…and Beyond” features displays of vintage super heroes, science fiction memorabilia and original artwork. Gallery coordinator Michelle Dock will share interesting pieces that demonstrate the powerful effects that science fiction and popular culture have on our everyday lives.

Ted Simons: A new exhibit at the Tempe center for the arts is taking visitors back in time while looking to the future. Producer Christina Estes and photographer Juan Magana show us how past pop icons are influencing the next generation.

Child: One of the guys from the Fantastic Four.

Mother: Is that Captain America?

Child: Yeah.

Christina Estes: They're items few people would expect to see featured in an art gallery.

Michelle Nichols-Dock: What we thought all along this wall is we've got famous batman characters from the s television show. A lot of these are the famous villains, like Catwoman.

Christina Estes: But they make perfect sense to Michelle Nichols-Dock. She coordinated the exhibit called "American Pop: Comic Books to Science Fiction and Beyond."

Michelle Nichols-Dock: It is all an exhibition about the loves that people have for comic books, science fiction TV and film, the real science behind science fiction, and the artists who are living today that are inspired by all of those things.

Christina Estes: One artist's love for superheroes led to this unique quilt.

Michelle Nichols-Dock: It's actual comic book pages, so they're paper, they are stitched together and in here we've got Batman, and Spiderman, and Captain America, different superheroes. He embroiders details on some of these pages.

Christina Estes: He also knitted this 10-foot-tall Fantastic Four consume.

Child: No one could have worn that.

Michelle Nichols-Dock: We get giggles, and I think that's OK. And then people think a little bit more about, why would an artist make a knitted superhero costume?

Christina Estes: They might ask the same question about this PROTON pack. It's built to resemble the one worn in the "Ghostbusters" movie.

Michelle Nichols-Dock: He studied Dan Ackroyd's costume, and he replicated from scratch all of these different parts to make this pack. And he told me that even this part right here, this round area, is a frying pan. This rainbow cord, you actually -- It doesn't exist anymore, so he had to order that on e-bay.

Christina Estes: You'll see plenty of items that are hard to find. Like Batman books. A helmet. Even a compass watch.

Michelle Nichols-Dock: This is my display. I've got a Han solo gun, action figure, Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia. And I was really enamored of Princess Leia and I wanted to be her.

Christina Estes: Sci-fi characters of the past have influenced many of today's scientists, including an ASU professor who donated this "Star Trek" costume he made in college.

Michelle Nichols-Dock: I think it's as much about the process for some people that are into pop culture, of the collecting or researching or making of those things, as it is about the final product.

Christina Estes: Making connections between fantasy and reality is key to this exhibit. Next to a display of strange adventures, comic books, you'll find meteorites from the ASU School of Earth and Science Exploration.

Michelle Nichols-Dock: Some of the kids that are looking at the show might be inspired by some of the science behind the science fiction.

Child: There's my favorite.

Michelle Nichols-Dock: Or the moral stories behind some of the comic book heroes.

Child: He's grabbing the girl.

Michelle Nichols-Dock: And might take that to the next level, and create their own comic book heroes or get more interested in science.

Ted Simons: The exhibit at the Tempe center for the arts runs through June 8. Admission is free and every Friday night the gallery also hosts sci-fi lectures and discussions.

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