By Joe Pinchot
Herald Staff Writer
JEFFERSON TOWNSHIP —
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far, away ...
Oops, those lines were taken by George Lucas in the original “Star Wars” movie, but they also fit a world created by Victoria Ludwig.
While much of that world remains in her head, the Jefferson Township woman has some of it on display at Westminster College, New Wilmington, in her senior art project.
Ludwig, a 2009 Mercer Area High School graduate is inviting visitors to Foster Art Gallery, Patterson Hall, to catch a glimpse of Epsylophia, as chronicled by Dr. Takuma Sochiko.
As Ludwig described it, Epsylophia and Earth were connected at one point in the distant past, but lost that connection after a devastating war.
Sochiko is a “kind of academic explorer” who finds a portal to Epsylophia, she said.
“He’s just another human being and he’s studying this connection Earth used to have with this other world,” Ludwig said of Sochiko.
Ludwig presents Sochiko’s journal entries of his visit to Epsylophia with colored drawings of the people he met, the creatures he saw, the way he lived, the architecture and landscape of the place and events he witnessed.
“The whole piece tells the story of this character I created,” said Ludwig, whose sister, Elizabeth, helped her choose the colors shown in her drawings.
Since about eighth grade, Ludwig has been developing a story for an animation project she would someday like to create.
“I wanted to create a prequel to it,” she said, and the prequel became her senior art project.
With the help of her father, Richard, Ludwig built a structure – based on a tent Sochiko lived in in Epsylophia – from which to hang her drawings.
The structure is made of creature bones and plant materials from Epsylophia, with an unrolled scroll as a roof, the letters on the scroll from the language of the people who live there. One of the drawings includes a key to translating the language.
“If you really wanted to, you could work through and translate it,” Ludwig said. “It has a story on it. It’s basically an overview of the other planet.”
There is text on the drawings, but much text is missing, allowing viewers to fill in the gaps with their own interpretations, she said.
The creatures of Epsylophia are notable not just because of their similarity to or difference from Earth creatures, but because the relationships the denizens of Epsylophia have with them goes beyond what is typical on Earth.
“On this planet, they have such a connection with animals that they become bonded with certain creatures,” she said.
Some of the creatures have similarities to Earth dinosaurs, birds and reptiles, and Ludwig took inspiration from Chinese mythology for others. She also created her own creatures, such as a water-based animal with psychic powers.
The visit is transformative for Sochiko – “He ends up feeling like this is where he belongs,” Ludwig said – so much so that he marries a resident of Epsylophia, a woman who is a spiritual leader of her people.
“I made sure to include some kind of love story,” she said.
Sochiko eventually returns to Earth “so he can report his findings,” and the heartbreak of leaving his wife and the life he created there is part of the story, Ludwig said.
Sochiko’s visit “rekindles their (residents of Epsylophia) trust in humanity and the hope that the worlds can be connected again,” she said.
On Earth, his stories are met with disbelief.
The exhibit shows an animation style that is more realistic than is typical of American animation, but also has traces of traditional American animation and Japanese anime, Ludwig said.
A lifelong fan of cartoon and Disney movies, Ludwig sees animation as bridging her interests in literature and the visual arts.
“Just the idea of taking something you’ve created and making it come alive on the screen is something I’ve always loved,” she said.
Ludwig is completing a double major in English and fine arts with a minor in secondary education, and hopes to pursue teaching while simultaneously furthering her education in animation. Her ultimate goal would be to open her own animation studio.
“I’m willing to work my way up,” she said.
She stopped short of calling Sochiko an alter ego, but said she shares with him perseverance and an interest in learning more about the world around them, giving viewers a small sense of her as they learn about him.
“I always try to include parts of myself in everything I do,” she said. “That’s what connects me to the work.”
The exhibit is up through March 29.