Posts Tagged ‘Exhibitions’

At The Carle: Tomi Ungerer Recap

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

What an amazing weekend! We’re still all glowing from the excitement of having Tomi Ungerer visit us for the opening of his exhibition this weekend. Tomi Ungerer: Chronicler of the Absurd will be open in our East Gallery until October 9th.

We celebrated Tomi’s visit with a Member’s reception on Saturday night, which included a delightful Q & A in our auditorium with Tomi Ungerer and the guest curator for the exhibit, Michael Patrick Hearn. They were given a charming introduction by Eric Carle, himself, who came up from his home in North Carolina for this special occasion. It turns out that although they were creating books in New York around the same time, Tomi and Eric never met. This evening marked their first meeting, but they found they had so much in common! Both came to the United States as young immigrants with only a small amount of money and were able to find graphic work in New York City and ultimately launch successful picture book careers. They both stressed experiencing the “American dream” where everyone was genuinely nice to them and America was truly the land of opportunity.

Eric Carle and Tomi Ungerer

Tomi Ungerer made us tear up a little bit when he took a moment on stage to thank Eric Carle for opening this museum and putting so much support behind it. Tomi Ungerer’s home city of Strasbourg, France opened The Tomi Ungerer Museum-International Center of Illustration in 2007, which is completely government funded. He acknowledged that wasn’t how things were done in the United States and that he truly applauded Eric Carle for the work he has done to start and keep a picture book art museum alive in the US. “You are an absolute missionary of culture,” Tomi told Eric. “It brings tears to my eyes.”

Eric Carle, Michael Patrick Hearn and Tomi Ungerer

The conversation touched on so many wonderful aspects of Tomi Ungerer’s work. He always creates books for himself, books he would have wanted to read as a child. He liked to be scared as kid, and thinks it’s important for books for children to deal with fears. “It’s wonderful to teach children to overcome it. You have to overcome your fears to stay alive as an adult.” This is the reason so many of his books deal with prejudice, racism or violence, because he believes it’s important for children to be aware of these things in our world and know how to deal with them. He enjoys creating books about animals which are normally hated, like snakes or vultures, to show that “everybody is different, but everyone has something.” He empowers his child characters because he knows that “adults are more stupid than children. Children have opinions and no one ever listens.”

His books are filled with visual puns and children usually are quick to spot deliberate inconsistencies and jokes. “I’m a professional practical joker,” he said. “I love the absurd.”

Ungerer let us in on the ideas behind the creation of many of his picture books and spoke a bit about his friendships with illustrators like Maurice Sendak and Shel Silverstein. He spoke of his American editors Ursula Nordstrom and Susan Hirschman (who was in attendance) with great admiration and respect. Although his books fell out of favor with American audiences in the 70′s and Ungerer himself left the U.S. for Canada and then Europe, he is pleased there is finally a publisher, Phaidon Press, bringing his books back into the English market.  “It’s so encouraging to be back in the English world.” And it was so wonderful for us to have you here with us this weekend, Tomi.

In addition to the Q & A, members and Museum friends enjoyed a reception in the Great Hall on Saturday night. Here are a few fun photos from the night:

Jerry Pinkey, Istvan Banyai and Etienne Delessert

Mo Willems and Norton Juster

David Johnson and Barbara McClintock

On Sunday, Tomi was back to do a personal gallery tour of his exhibition. He admitted being slightly embarrassed at seeing some of his early drafts and sketches. “When I do a book, I never look at it again.” The exhibition is a retrospective of Tomi’s artwork, chronicling the artist’s process from draft to finished piece and, despite feeling embarrassed to see some of the unfinished art and sketches on display, Tomi seemed very pleased with the exhibit.

Following the tour, Tomi did a book signing for the public, and signed seemingly hundreds of books for fans. Here’s a photo of a young fan meeting Tomi on Sunday:

We were so grateful for the opportunity to have Tomi Ungerer here during his short trip to the United States this week and hope that all of you get to see this marvelous exhibition this summer! Click here to see the exhibition catalog and browse our extensive selection of Tomi Ungerer books.

At The Carle: Rich Michelson

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

This Sunday, November 7th at 1:00 pm, meet local award-winning writer and storyteller Rich Michelson at The Carle. As well as being a poet and writer of children’s books, Rich is also the owner of the amazing R. Michelson Galleries in Northampton, MA, which houses fine art of all kinds, including an extensive collection of original children’s book illustration. (When I get around to putting together my dream children’s book tour of New England, these galleries are going to be a must-see stop!)

Rich’s books for children are playful and lyrical, and often revolve around the close and heartwarming relationships children form with others in their lives, despite racial or cultural barriers. His books all have a great appreciation for history and, often, Jewish culture. In collaboration with our Monsters & Miracles exhibition, on Sunday Rich will discuss his own picture books as well as the history of Jewish children’s book illustration. A book signing will follow his presentation. If you can’t make the event, but would like to buy any of Rich’s books, place your order online by Saturday, November 6th and we will have him sign your books and then ship them to you after the event. Click here to see all of Rich’s books for sale in our store.

For more about Rich Michelson, check out this wonderful interview over at one of my favorite blogs, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.

I also really enjoyed this video of Rich Michelson talking about Maurice Sendak, the man who “doesn’t write blurbs” writing a blurb for his book, Too Young for Yiddish as well as discussing Brundibar. Really interesting stuff!

After Rich’s presentation at The Carle on Sunday, please join us at R. Michelson Galleries from 4-6 pm in Northampton, MA to celebrate the gallery’s 21st Annual Children’s Illustration Show. We look forward to it every year and the Carle Bookstore will be there selling books by all the fabulous children’s book illustrators in show.  It’s the perfect time to meet the artists and writers behind your favorite children’s books and maybe get a book signed. Don’t believe me? Check out this picture of last year’s star-studded attendance:

To see who’s who, check out the R. Michelson gallery website here.

Hope to see you Sunday!

Too Bad, Ants! (A Halloween Unmasking)

Friday, October 29th, 2010

It’s Halloween the day after tomorrow, that most perplexing of holidays, when everybody nice and safe puts on the mask of danger and death, and everyone laughs in the face of the very scariest things.

In some ways, though, every day is Halloween, because the world is always masked: that is, everyday life conceals great risks. And we don’t usually laugh about these everyday dangers, especially if there are toddlers in the house. Instead, we safety-proof our homes. Because the modern world of big experienced grown-ups really is very dangerous for little innocent kids. We can issue dire warnings to try convince children to keep their precious fingers out of electrical sockets, or toasters, or sink food-grinders, but it’s up to the dire cautionary tales we tell, to clarify what might happen if kids disobey our “safety first” injunctions.

Peter Rabbit ignores his mother’s warning to stay away from Mr. McGregor’s garden and ends up in a scary chase, followed by a stomachache (his father hadn’t been so lucky and was put in a pie). Curious George causes trouble for the fire department by playing with the telephone, and spends time in jail before landing in a zoo. The moral of such tales is clear: do as you’re told or suffer consequences.

Chris Van Allsburg’s hilarious Two Bad Ants appears on the surface to be just such a cautionary tale. Two friends leave their group to indulge forbidden desires. They gorge on sugar, fall asleep in the sugar bowl, and awaken to a terrifying morning caught in the midst of what we readers understand is a human family’s normal breakfast ritual. The two ants are inadvertently dropped in coffee, dumped into the sink-grinder, shot out of a toaster, shocked in an electrical socket. They escape this dangerous kitchen battered and bruised. The cautionary moral seems clear: stay with the group, do as you’re instructed, or else. (Good advice for trick-or-treaters seeking sweets!)

Van Allsburg tells the tale from the ants’ standpoint, using an ominous and highly dramatic narrative voice that ignores the human reality of the situation, focusing on the fearful and strange structure of this weird kitchen universe in which the ants suffer their horrible experiences. It’s up to the ant’s-eye-view illustrations to reveal to readers what is in fact happening to our charming central characters: seeing our ordinary world from the ants’ miniature standpoint provides the book’s humor. Children adore seeing close-ups of a massive whirlpool of coffee, a super-gigantic English muffin, a huge burst of water gushing from a faucet.

I’ve always loved performing Two Bad Ants at storytimes, and a few years ago I had the terrific opportunity to present a performance of this book for the author himself.

The occasion was The Carle’s December 2004 opening party for Chris Van Allsburg’s gallery exhibition here, which was timed to coincide with the release of his movie, The Polar Express. I knew that my audience for this performance would be composed of adults.

I found myself puzzling over the deeper meaning of Two Bad Ants, starting with that punster title (“Two Bad Ants” or “Too Bad, Ants”). Yes, the story can be seen at two levels—human and ant—but is there also an additional level—the level where the reader sees both perspectives simultaneously?

I started thinking about the premise of tiny creatures in a world composed of gigantic structures and systems that make no sense. Unlike Jack in the giant’s house, or Lemuel Gulliver in the land of the Brobdingnagians, these two ants have no comprehension of the world they have entered: their experience of toast, sugar, water faucet and electricity doesn’t make sense to them before, during or after their terrifying travail.

I remembered Nobel Prize-winning physicist Murray Gell-Mann’s remarkable book that attempts to explain the physics of sub-atomic particles, and how these strange things form the material of which our world is constructed. In The Quark and the Jaguar, this incomprehensible subject is clarified from a number of different angles. I began to search the text for a passage that might unmask for the ant characters in Two Bad Ants the nature of the kitchen universe, and thereby help them understand the unlikely travails they were enduring. A text that the ants would like to read.

I found a passage that seemed in some abstract way to perfectly match up with the text and story of Two Bad Ants. I imagined a show in which, as the action proceeds, one of the ants is rapidly reading The Quark and the Jaguar to the other ant, as if this book were a fascinating instruction manual to the crazy world they have entered.

Here’s how the performance went.

On the movie screen in the museum’s auditorium, we projected the illustrations from the book, in sequence, as background to the action on stage.

Steve Angel—our visitor services manager, and a terrific actor—played one of the ants: a daredevil-ringleader tough guy. Steve’s task, while enacting the action, was to speak the text of the book, narrating in a bewildered way the events passing moment by moment.

I played the other ant: a maniac-brainiac geek. My task, while also enacting the action, was to be obsessed with reading aloud from The Quark and the Jaguar. That is, as we ants were battered and bruised and knocked all over the stage in turmoil and hazard, I, the crazed intellectual, was oblivious to the danger. I only wanted to read aloud to my friend from this amazing book I’d gotten my hands on.

What words was I, the ant, reading aloud so rapidly? What did I find so fascinating that I couldn’t spare an instant even to save myself from catastrophe? What does The Quark and the Jaguar have to say to an ant living out his terrible destiny inside the story of Two Bad Ants?

I can’t include the complete text of Two Bad Ants, alternating with the text from pages 16 to 20 of The Quark and the Jaguar, juxtaposed in exactly the way we did. But here is the first half of the performance: perhaps, just as my ant-character was able to unmask his terrifying world, you will find, via Murray Gell-Mann—the man who invented the concept of the quark—that the universe is a place that can be unmasked as well.

Steve Ant: The news traveled swiftly through the tunnels of the ant world. A scout had returned with a remarkable discovery—a beautiful sparkling crystal. When the scout presented the crystal to the ant queen she took a small bite, then quickly ate the entire thing.

Andy Ant: A wonderful example of the simple underlying principles of nature is the law of gravity, specifically Einstein’s general-relativistic theory of gravitation (even though most people regard that theory as anything but simple).

Steve Ant: She deemed it the most delicious food she had ever tasted. Nothing could make her happier than to have more, much more. The ants understood. They were eager to gather more crystals because the queen was the mother of them all. Her happiness made the whole ant nest a happy place.

Andy Ant: The phenomenon of gravitation gave rise, in the course of the physical evolution of the universe, to the clumping of matter into galaxies and then into stars and planets, including our Earth. From the time of their formation, such bodies were already manifesting complexity, diversity, and individuality. But these properties took on new meanings with the emergence of complex adaptive systems.

Steve Ant: It was late in the day when they departed. Long shadows stretched over the entrance to the ant kingdom. One by one the insects climbed out, following the scout, who had made it clear—there were many crystals where the first had been found, but the journey was long and dangerous.

Andy Ant: Here on Earth that development was associated with the origin of terrestrial life and with the process of biological evolution, which has produced such a striking diversity of species. Our own species, in at least some respect the most complex that has so far evolved on this planet, has succeeded in discovering a great deal of the underlying simplicity, including the theory of gravitation itself.

Steve Ant: They marched into the woods that surrounded their underground home. Dusk turned to twilight, twilight to night. The path they followed twisted and turned, every bend leading them deeper into the dark forest.

Andy Ant: Research on the sciences of simplicity and complexity…naturally includes teasing out the meaning of the simple and the complex, but also the similarities and differences among complex adaptive systems…

Steve Ant: More than once the line of ants stopped and anxiously listened for the sounds of hungry spiders. But all they heard was the call of crickets echoing through the woods like distant thunder.

Andy Ant: …functioning in such diverse processes as the origin of life on Earth, biological evolution, the behavior of organisms in ecological systems, the operation of the mammalian immune system, learning and thinking in animals…the evolution of human societies, the behavior of investors in financial markets, and the use of computer software and/or hardware designed to evolve strategies or to make predictions based on past observations.

Steve Ant: Dew formed on the leaves above. Without warning, huge cold drops fell on the marching ants. A firefly passed overhead that, for an instant, lit up the woods with a blinding flash of blue-green light.

Andy Ant: The common feature of all these processes is that in each one a complex adaptive system acquires information about its environment and its own interaction with that environment, identifying regularities in that information, condensing those regularities into a kind of “schema” or model, and acting in the real world on the basis of that schema. In each case, there are various competing schemata, and the results of the action in the real world feed back to influence the competition among those schemata.

Steve Ant: At the edge of the forest stood a mountain. The ants looked up and could not see its peak. It seemed to reach right to the heavens. But they did not stop. Up the side they climbed, higher and higher.

Andy Ant: Each of us…functions in many different ways as a complex adaptive system. (In fact the term “schema” has long been used in psychology to mean a conceptual framework such as a…being always uses to grasp data, to give them meaning.)

Steve Ant: The wind whistled through the cracks of the mountain’s face. The ants could feel its force bending their delicate antennae. Their legs grew weak as they struggled upward. At last they reached a ledge and crawled through a narrow tunnel.

Andy Ant: Imagine you are in a strange city during the evening rush hour, trying to flag down a taxi on a busy avenue leading outward from the center. Taxis rush by you, but they don’t stop. Most of them already have passengers, and you notice that those cabs have their roof lights turned off. Aha! You must look for taxis with roof lights on.

Steve Ant: When the ants came out of the tunnel they found themselves in a strange world. Smells they had known all their lives, smells of dirt and grass and rotting plants, had vanished. There was no more wind and, most puzzling of all, it seemed that the sky was gone.

Andy Ant: Then you discover some in that condition and indeed they lack passengers, but they don’t stop either. You need a modified schema. Soon you realize that the roof lights have an inner and outer part, with the latter marked “Out of Service.” What you need is a taxi that has only the inner part of the roof light illuminated.

Steve Ant: They crossed smooth shiny surfaces, then followed the scout up a glassy curved wall. They had reached their goal. From the top of the wall they looked below to a sea of crystals. One by one the ants climbed down into the sparkling treasure.

Andy Ant: Your new idea receives confirmation when two taxis discharge their passengers a block ahead and then their drivers turn on just the inner roof lights. Unfortunately, those taxis are immediately grabbed by other pedestrians. A few more cabs finish their trips nearby, but they too are snapped up.

Steve Ant: Quickly they each chose a crystal, then turned to start the journey home. There was something about this unnatural place that made the ants nervous. In fact they left in such a hurry that none of them noticed the two small ants who stayed behind.

Andy Ant: You are impelled to cast your net wider in your search for a successful schema. Finally, you observe, on the other side of the avenue, going in the opposite direction, many taxis cruising with just their inner roof lights on. You cross the avenue, hail one, and climb in.

Steve Ant: “Why go back?” one asked the other. “This place may not feel like home, but look at all these crystals.” “You’re right,” said the other,” we can stay here and eat this tasty treasure every day, forever.” So the two ants ate crystal after crystal until they were too full to move, and fell asleep.

Andy Ant: As a further illustration, imagine that you are a subject in a psychology experiment in which you are shown a long sequence of pictures of familiar objects. The pictures represent various things, and each one may be shown many times. You are asked from time to time to predict what the next few images will be, and you keep trying to construct mental schemata for the sequence, inventing theories about how the sequence is structured, based on what you have seen. Any such schema, supplemented by the memory of the last few pictures shown, permits you to make a prediction about the next ones. Typically, those predictions will be wrong the first few times, but if the sequence has an easily grasped structure, the discrepancy between prediction and observation will cause you to reject unsuccessful schemata in favor of ones that make good predictions. Soon you may be foreseeing accurately what will be shown next.

Steve Ant: Daylight came. The sleeping ants were unaware of changes taking place in their new found home. A giant silver scoop hovered above them, then plunged deep into the crystals. It shoveled up both ants and crystals and carried them high into the air.

Andy Ant (Here is where I started to speak directly to Two Bad Ants author Chris Van Allsburg in the audience): Now imagine a similar experiment run by a sadistic psychologist who exhibits a sequence with no real structure at all. You are likely to go on making up schemata, but this time they keep failing to make good predictions, except occasionally by chance. In this case the results in the real world afford no guidance in choosing a schema, other than the one that says, “This sequence seems to have no rhyme or reason.” But…subjects find it hard to accept such a conclusion.

Steve Ant: The ants were wide awake when the scoop turned, dropping them from a frightening height. They tumbled through space in a shower of crystals and fell into a boiling brown lake…..

We continued our travails and our attempts to decode these…but I can’t quote the entire picture book in this blog. (You’ll have to buy a copy.) I think the audience liked the show. At least, afterwards, someone told me that Chris Van Allsburg said he had.

And so, persistent blog-readers, I leave you to your own Halloween maskings and unmaskings, in hope that the world will act more gently to you and yours than it did to those two bad ants.  Stay safe!

At The Carle: Monsters & Miracles

Friday, October 15th, 2010

Today marks the very first day of our newest exhibition, Monsters & Miracles: A Journey through Jewish Picture Books. The beautiful exhibition catalog featuring artwork from this amazing show, as well as essays by the guest curators Ilan Stevens and Neal Sokol, is now available for purchase online here.

We have so many wonderful events planned here for the duration of the show, including guest appearances by many of the talented artists whose artwork is featured in our gallery.

To kick things off with a bang, we have artist and author Mark Podwal at the Museum this Sunday at 1 pm. He’ll be speaking about one of the most fascinating of Jewish legends, The Golem, tracing its history through Jewish culture and art. His presentation is a must-see for anyone interested in Jewish history and culture, as well as those delighted by all myths and legends. Mark will be signing books outside of our store following his presentation. If you are interested in getting a signed book, but can’t make it to the Museum, place your order online before Sunday, October 17th and we’ll make sure to ship you a signed copy after the event. Click here to see the books available for purchase.

For more programming around our new exhibit, visit our website here and start planning your visit. Our neighbors at The Yiddish Book Center also have wonderful events planned, so be sure to check their event calendar as well. Hope to see you soon!

The Carle Goes to The Rockwell

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

On Monday, staffers of The Carle took a field trip to visit our Berkshire neighbor, The Norman Rockwell Museum. They’re currently featuring, in addition to their amazing collection of Rockwell originals, artwork from the prolific children’s illustrator and popular cartoonist, William Steig. I was so excited to see pieces of The Carle’s collection of Steig’s children’s book art, including illustrations from Shrek! and my personal favorite, Alpha Beta Chowder, but even more so to see his adult cartoons and New Yorker covers for the first time. It was quite remarkable to see how many pieces were in the exhibit, (three full galleries!) and also to see just how relevant and humorous Steig’s artwork still is to audiences today. I overheard so many people chuckling while walking through his galleries. Here’s one of my personal favorite adult cartoons from the exhibition:

"I've got some bad news." Photo courtesy of The Norman Rockwell Museum

It was so wonderful to see Steig’s original artwork and I can’t wait for our own upcoming exhibition at The Carle, Monsters & Miracles: A Journey Through Jewish Picture Books, when Steig’s work will join many others in our gallery this month.

While it has been a dreary, rainy start to autumn here in Western Mass, the view from the Norman Rockwell Museum was still spectacular as the leaves are starting to turn color. Here’s Rockwell’s art studio behind the museum.

We are so grateful for the Norman Rockwell Museum for hosting us and encourage everyone to hurry to see the exhibit William Steig: Love & Laughter before it closes at the end of this month. I can’t wait to go back when their next exhibit, Witness: The Art of Jerry Pinkney opens in November. Maybe I’ll see you there!

The Times They are A-Changin’

Friday, September 24th, 2010

It’s hard to believe that our Lisbeth Zwerger exhibition is truly coming to a close, but this weekend will be the very last weekend to catch the show in the United States. For those of you who will miss the chance to see the Zwerger Exhibition, we will still have her books, exhibition catalog, and postcards for sale in our bookstore even after the show leaves us.

While we will be sad to see such beautiful artwork go, we are excited for the exhibits that this fall will bring. Eric Carle’s new exhibition opens this week featuring artwork from Today is Monday as well as his unique costume and set design for a performance of The Magic Flute.

October brings the massive and star-studded exhibition of Monsters and Miracles: A Journey through Jewish Picture Books. We will have original artwork from award-winning illustrators such as Maurice Sendak, William Steig, Art Spiegelman, Uri Shulevitz, and Mordicai Gerstein, among many, many others. So stay tuned for all the wonderful events and activities planned not only here at The Carle but at our neighbor museum, The National Yiddish Book Center. The Valley is always such a wonderful place to visit in the fall, so start planning your trip now!