The Art of Impersonation

Our next featured builder on the Manifesto should be no stranger to anyone who’s been observing the hobby for the last three or four years, Letranger Absurde, which is French for “Absurd abroad”.  Both highly skilled and prolific, monsieur Absurde has been the subject of some speculation as to whether he (or she) is in fact a pseudonym for another high profile builder.  Most of the evidence is shaky at best and centers around the fact that Absurde seemed to spring fully formed into the world in late 2013, like a Greek god, with no awkward initial models and a tool box full of advanced techniques.  Some claim to recognize personality traits and writing tendencies as well as parts preferences (like Absurde’s predilection for Mixel googly-eyes for many of his models).  I’m not sure I buy into it, but it does add to the builder’s mystique.

The subject of monsieur Absurde’s latest effort is the musician, actor and all around genius David Bowie.  The bust is striking for many different reasons: the angle of the eyebrows, the inner curve of the ear and the swept back hair are the most obvious, but a close inspection will reveal twice as many details to get excited about.  I also really enjoyed the shirt collar, which seems kind of strange but there it is.

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My only problem with the model, and it’s a big one, is that it looks almost nothing like David Bowie.  A David Bowie impersonator maybe, but not Ziggy Stardust or the Thin White Duke.  When I first saw the thumbnail  I assumed it was Benedict Cumberbatch or perhaps a young, red-lipped Tommy Cruise and the cheeks recall Edward James Olmos.  Until I saw the mis-matched eyes and read the description I had no idea it was Bowie.  So as harsh as it sounds, constant reader, the bust is a failure on a purely conceptual level if the goal was to make the model look like David Bowie.  That doesn’t mean it isn’t a wonderful piece of art and I could not do better on my best day…but it’s not Bowie.

Why were Bowie’s eyes two different colors you ask?  Complete heterochromia is a fairly rare condition (in humans) whereby each iris is a distinctly different color, such as having one blue iris and the other brown.  But this isn’t why Bowie’s eyes looked different.  Instead, the unusual appearance of Bowie’s eyes were due to a condition called Anisocoria. Anisocoria is characterized by an unequal size in a person’s pupils. In Bowie’s case, his left pupil was permanently dilated due to a trauma received to the eye during a childhood fist-fight.  This can create the illusion of having different colored eyes because the fixed pupil does not respond to changes in light, while the right pupil does. So Bowie’s left eye often appeared to be quite dark, due to the blackness of his dilated pupil, when compared to the blue of his right iris.  The dilated pupil of his left eye was also potentially more prone to the effect of “red eye”. This sometimes adds to the appearance of a different color when contrasted to his right eye.

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