Oviedo artist’s portrait of “Star Wars” luminary Princess Leia, consisting entirely of computer keys, is joining the lineup of oddities for Ripley Entertainment.
Doug Powell fashioned the 5.5-square-foot piece from 6,590 recycled keys in about 200 hours, he said. The finished product is a head shot of late actress Carrie Fisher
, complete with Leia’s signature double-bun hairstyle.
“For sure, ‘Star Wars’ is a hot subject in our search to stay contemporary, celebrity-oriented,” said Edward Meyer, vice president of exhibits and archives for Ripley Entertainment, which is headquartered in south Orlando. “I doubt there’s anything more popular than ‘Star Wars.’”
Interest intensified after Fisher’s death in late December, followed by the death of her mother, Debbie Reynolds, a day later.
“You want something that gives word-of-mouth buzz,” Meyer said. ���It’s very important in our business … to have the ability to take photos. Everybody wants a selfie. This is the perfect opportunity to get your picture taken with Princess Leia.”
For his computer-key works, Powell doesn’t use a computer. First, he sketches, and then he glues the keys on individually, he said.
“There is no high-tech anything. I use a No. 2 pencil, I sketch it out, and I use glue,” he said. “I insist on staying that way. I don’t want to do digital art.”
Hidden in the Leia piece are keys spelling out “Star Wars” characters, such as Darth Vader, Chewbacca and Boba Fett. Although he was primarily a fan of the original trilogy, the names of characters from the prequels and more recent films “The Force Awakens” and “Rogue One” also appear.
In the middle is the phrase, “May the force be with you.”
Powell, 55, receives recycled materials from collection centers, and he stacks the black, white, gray and yellow keys in his house in “massive, massive piles,” he said. He finds plenty of keyboard debris, such as cookie crumbs and cat hair.
“They’re just as nasty as you can possibly imagine,” he said.
Ripley has obtained several keyboard pieces from Powell. Other subjects included Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, Salvador Dali, Steve Jobs and Frankenstein, which is displayed at Ripley’s attraction on Orlando’s International Drive. The company paid “several thousand dollars” for his Leia piece, Meyer said, and it’s still deciding in which of its worldwide attractions it will be displayed.
Powell, who started working with computer keys in 2012, also has done an abstract work for a hotel in California and a portrait of Mary Kay Cosmetics founder Mary Kay Ash for a factory in Dallas. For the latter, the company requested the incorporation of lipstick caps. He used 11,600 of them.
A new opportunity has Powell drifting from his portrait work. He will be preparing 12 pieces of keyboard art — including a 7-foot piece of the Statue of Liberty — for Art Basel, an international art fair in December in Miami.
“This is a big step for me, so this is what I’m working toward right now,” he said.