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Urgent—Must See! The Book Illustrators Show at the Bloomington Theatre and Art Center

January 11, 2011

Details in the main post on a fabulous art show.

Monday my friend Tom and I went over to the Bloomington Theatre and Art Center to catch a glimpse of "Beyond the Book: A Book Illustrators Fine Art Exhibition."

Art by Derek Anderson, Leslie W. Bowman, Nancy Carlson, Stephen Gammell, Beth Peck, Lauren Stringer, and Mike Wohnoutka is on display. Each section begins with an artist's statement on how he or she works, the artist's approach to work outside of the book, that sort of thing. (Each of these statements provides a bit of insight into what we are viewing—signage isn't always this helpful.) Next there is a framed original from the artist's book illustration work. What follows that painting is personal art. The groupings read as powerful statements. And sometimes the work is surprizing—Gammell's line driven abstracts; sometimes it's tour de force people studies like Beth Peck's work; and then sometimes it is humorous, inspiring, and exhuberantly joyous like Mike Wohnoutka's work (there is a frog painting there, a small square of wood panel within a frame that will make me think and smile for a long time to come).

Wohnoutka's personal works were my favorites. When you see his surprised chickens and roosters you'll know immediately why. I saw him do an acrylic painting demo at the Minnesota Watercolor Society several years ago so it was nice to know a bit about how he builds up his paint—but look closely and you'll see. His work will engage your eye with his wonderful use of color. I started adding his books to my collection of Children's books after seeing his demo. (You can see a short video clip of Wohnoutka talking and sketching at YouTube. Or you can get to that clip from the Bloomington Center's website.)

Whether the artist is someone I've been following in books for years, like Gammel, or saw for the first time today, it's all really strong, interesting work, coming out of the minds of people who have so much to say visually—much more beyond their commercial work. That's just one more reason to go and see the exhibit.

There are even two sketchbooks on display of Beth Peck's—they are definitely worth the trip to Bloomington.

The only negative thing I have to say about the show is there is now show catalog!!!!! I'm writing to the folks at the Center and asking them to produce a Blurb.com (or whatever, similar print on demand company they want to use) BOOK of these images. Seeing the artist statements, then an example of their published work, and then their personal work like this is a delight to both the mind and the eye. I wanted to take the memory with me in book form. Who knows when such a collection will appear again? The show makes a statement about the history of children's book illustration over the past several decades, not in what it shows about book work (that which is on display is pretty current) but what it shows of the working artist's mind.

The show is up until February 18. See details at their website. Why aren't you already in your car!?

  1. Reply

    roz–i whipped through this and decided to check out the video and was really impressed. you are so right about wohnoutka’s chickens!!i especially like the tomato painting in his living room, looking over the man and his kids drawing away. thanks.

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