Posted by: jeannineatkins | January 17, 2008

Art and Names

An old friend from high school, who I’m lucky enough to live near, invited her mom to stay for a few days, and I asked the two of them to come with me to the Eric Carle Picture Book Museum for a bit of color to zip up our January. We had fun at the Spiderwick: from book to movie exhibit. I loved the old wooden desk and chair based on the one that Tony DiTerlizzi works at, with the plastic dinos and old paint brushes, though I worried for the artist’s back – (please, find a chair not so wooden and gorgeous, but better for your spine. One day you, too, will get old.) And, while I love to look at pictures at the Carle, excuse me, but doesn’t Holly Black use a desk and chair? Why don’t we get to see that? It’s no put down of DiTerlizzi’s great illustration to ask if we’d have Spiderwick Chronicles without their author.

Another exhibit was about the history of childhood, focusing most on the present and how play, questioning, loneliness, and community are depicted one picture at a time. It is fun to recognize art from favorite books, not from the turning page, but on still on a wall. Reading and looking at The Day the Babies Crawled Away, I had too much fun following mischievous babies to realize that Peggy Rathmann made the black and white illustrations by laser cutting linoleum. And I mean tiny tiny cuts. How did she think of that? How did she do it?

Well, there was lots to look at and admire and talk about. Sue’s mom, Helen, who’d grown up on a farm during the depression – “we were practical people. We never thought about making art.”– saw immediately that Eric Carle had made some impressions on a mural using carpet scraps. Often on these excursions, random words leave the greatest mark. I liked the kid who was obsessing not about looking, but at who or what, from the walls, might be watching him. And then Helen mentioned visiting a cathedral. We talked about the anonymous art behind many gorgeous windows, sculptures, chalices, steeples, etc. “People didn’t expect their name to be known. They made those because they believed in what they stood for,” Helen said.

I caught my breath. I’ve had moments of working like that, focused on what I’m making. But could I, would I, work without a chance to leave my name?



  1. The museum sounded really interesting! Our friends live close to it and are always asking us to come visit. Maybe someday!

  2. Oh, Jama, it is a gorgeous place. With cricket and redbird and lizard tiles even in the bathrooms. If you check them out online you can see what special exhibits and events are offered. Spring is especially great when the surrounding apple trees are in bloom.
    And let me know if you visit! There are also many good places for lunch (even if poet’s names don’t get spelled out in the soup, as they should, but only on your blogs)

  3. I live ninety minutes from the Eric Carle Museum and haven’t been in ages. You have convinced me I need to get there again soon. (Jama, perhaps an LJ field trip?!)
    My breath caught too, Jeannine, at the thought of not leaving a name. Could I? Would I? Honestly, it would be hard. What does that say? You have got me thinking …

  4. If I ever get up there, I’ll be sure to let you know!

  5. Ooh, Jeannine, what a question. That’s hard! I would be willing to leave some poems. But I would still wish my name were on them.
    I’m afraid I’d turn into a horrible name-dropper kind of person. “Well, that poem I wrote…you know the one–chiselled into stone in that 15th-century cathedral?–well, anyway, I walked by it yesterday and wondered: Is it too late to change a word?”
    This is a really good question. I’m going to have to think about this!

  6. Laura, I laughed at and loved your reply. Yeah, that could be me, too.
    It is a hard question, I’m trying to take with me as I work for a while. There is that great feeling of work for its own sake, for a belief in it. But the cathedral workers had faith not only in longer — eternal — life but that there would be bread on the table, name or no name. And as women we’re coming out of a tradition where women did work for little recognition, which doesn’t seem fair or good.

  7. I really enjoyed the show on images of children with art from so many varied illustrators, but the shows change every few months, and sometimes there are great speakers, too that make me think, yes, I need to get there, even though I live quite close. There’s also a show on graphic novels at the Normal Rockwell museum in Stockbridge, a longer ride, but I do hope to get there before it closes in March. Let me know if you plan to come!

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