"The Very Hungry Caterpillar" gets a show
Atlanta's High Museum of Art is inviting visitors into a colorful world. It is populated by playful animals and imaginative children.
"I See a Story: The Art of Eric Carle" is an exhibition that runs through Jan. 8. It features more than 80 collages from 16 books by the author of children's favorites like "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" and "The Grouchy Ladybug." Carle's bright images explore themes including childhood, nature and journeys.
Adults can revel in the nostalgia of books they read as children or read to their own children. Kids are treated to an exhibition set up with them in mind. The collages are hung just a few feet off the ground. A scavenger hunt provides an opportunity to engage more fully with the art.
A close look at the collages helps visitors understand how Carle works. He uses acrylic paint on white tissue paper to create bright sheets that he stores grouped by color in his studio. When he's creating a collage, he selects a sheet from his collection. He cuts it using a razor. Or he tears it by hand before layering the pieces into colorful scenes.
The works in the exhibition span five decades. They are drawn from the collection of The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. It is in Amherst, Massachusetts. The High in Atlanta is the only venue where the exhibition will be shown.
Once the exhibition is over, the highly light-sensitive works will be removed from their frames and matting. They will be returned to the Carle Museum's vault for 10 years. This is according to High director of education Virginia Shearer.
Carle is 86 and formally retired. He spends much of his time in the Florida Keys. But he still enjoys working in his studio space in Northampton, Massachusetts. The studio is near the Carle Museum. He was born to German parents in Syracuse, New York. His family returned to Germany when he was 6. He moved to New York City in 1952 and worked as a graphic designer in The New York Times' promotion department. He later worked as art director for an advertising agency.
He turned to children's books in 1967. That is when author Bill Martin Jr. asked him to illustrate a story. It became "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?" The first book he wrote and illustrated himself was "1, 2, 3 to the Zoo" in 1968. That was followed by "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" in 1969.
Carle draws on his own life experiences for inspiration, said Ellen Keiter. She is the chief curator of the Carle Museum. Insects and animals are drawn from his memories of childhood walks with his father. "Walter the Baker" pays tribute to an uncle who encouraged his creativity. "Friends" is based on his experience of leaving his best friend when his family moved to Germany. And "Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me" was prompted by a request from his daughter.
Dummy books show how some of his most famous books evolved from idea to finished product. They reveal original alternate titles, like "The Ill-Tempered Ladybug" and "The Mean Old Ladybug."
"They really let you see the hand of the artist and how he's thinking," Keiter said of the preliminary mock-ups.
Some of the highlights of the exhibition are five works from the 1987 edition of "The Very Hungry Caterpillar." The show also has the original eight-page collage of the blue whale from "The Grouchy Ladybug" and original 1967 collages of characters from "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?"
CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why might adults want to see a show about children's books?
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