Inspiration Behind the Avatars

Artists are constantly looking to other artists for inspiration. In this same tradition, we asked the video game design students at Kent State University to use the Museum as inspiration for the GameFest Akron Virtual Arcade. In response, the designer Megan Gyorki filled the virtual arcade with critters, creatures, and characters that can each trace their parentage to a work from the Museum’s collection. Gamers can select from these avatars to represent them as they navigate the arcade.

Taking cues from Richard Estes’ Food City, Gyorki created an avatar made up of a playful conglomeration of the color palette found in this work. She splattered these tones through the main parts of the avatar and then added comic book like explosions of color typical of Pop Art, which was a main source of inspiration for Estes. The result is a whimsical creature that looks as though it has engaged in a food fight using the painting as its weaponry.

The two most mythical looking avatars are those built from John Sokol’s Man Eating Trees and Julian Stanczak’s Dual Glare. Each of these looks as though it could’ve stepped out of a Tolkien novel, but they still maintain a solid grounding in their source material. For the Man Eating Trees avatar, Gyorki has imbued the trees themselves with a ferocity to match the monster found in Sokol’s painting. Unlike their passive painted counterparts, these avatar trees are fighting back against their voraciously hungry foe.  

Gyorki’s avatar inspired by Dual Glare takes on a similar fierceness. Here, Gyorki has transformed the dramatic reds of Stanczak’s work into fiery ribbons that twist and twirl into a gracefully composed creature. With its animal-like face and limbs, this character feels reminiscent of the figures that dutifully guard the pages of ancient texts like the Book of Kells, and yet the adherence to Stanczak’s color palate is wholly within the original artists’ interest in color and light.

One of the more playful avatars is inspired by what is perhaps the Museum’s most joyful work, Brian Bress’ Organizing the Physical Evidence (all white, all black). In this two-screen video work, two characters meditatively shift objects around their own faces, only to then exchange facial features with one another across the planes of their individual screen. In a delightful play on this concept, this avatar is a combination of the two figures, as if the screens have broken down completely and these characters have finally become one.

In a fantastically meta move, Gyorki created an avatar from Jordan Wong’s installation exhibition, 10,000 Things. Wong’s installations are filled with video game symbology like coins, avatars, arrows, and fire bursts. Each of Wong’s works are 2D and stagnant, though inspired by the active movement of their videogame counterparts. Now, with Gyorki’s intervention, Wong’s symbols and creatures have come fully to life in the most fitting ecosystem possible – a virtual arcade.

See these avatars for yourself by exploring the GameFest Akron Virtual Arcade and learn a bit more about the Museum’s collection through our website. The GameFest Akron Virtual Arcade will be available through November 13, 2021.