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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Press Release Fun: The Greatest Alice in Wonderland Exhibition of the 21st Century

They even got the Dali art! Impressive stuff:

During the IBBY Regional Conference in Fresno, California, October 21-23, the Arne Nixon Center for the Study of Children’s Literature at California State University, Fresno, will offer “Down the Rabbit Hole with Lewis Carroll and Leonard Weisgard,” a major exhibition, September 16-October 26, 2011, at the Henry Madden Library. Generously sponsored by ANCA (the Arne Nixon Center Advocates), Library Dean Peter McDonald, The Leon S. Peters Foundation, and ANCA Secret Garden donors, this exhibition will offer stimulating visual, sculptural, and literary interpretations of Lewis Carroll’s classic books, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.

The exhibition, which is suitable for all ages, will be open Monday to Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. on Saturdays, and 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. on Sundays. Visitors will enter the exhibition through a full-size silhouette of the mad tea party, finding themselves in a world of dreamlike interpretations.

A historically rich introduction to author Lewis Carroll (whose real name was Charles Dodgson), his literary muse, Alice Liddell, and the original Alice illustrator John Tenniel will greet viewers along the south wall of the second-floor Leon S. Peters Ellipse Gallery. Here viewers will be able to discover the inspirations for the dreamlike themes that would someday inspire a Surrealist art movement and support a cultural shift to Wonderland from Victorian England.

This main gallery will offer a variety of original and limited edition from the Arne Nixon Center’s permanent collection. This will include original art by Leonard Weisgard for his 1949 edition of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. Exquisite offset lithographs by illustrator Anne Bachelier, woodcut illustrations by Barry Moser, whimsical art by Aliki, and pre-publication page art by comic creator Willy Schermele will also be displayed, along with original illustrations by six Fresno State students in Doug Hansen’s advanced illustration class.

Materials on loan will include original Alice-themed art by Charles M. Schulz for his “Peanuts” comic strip, loaned by the Charles M. Schulz Museum; anamorphic bronze sculptures loaned by Los Angeles artist Karen Mortillaro; and original art– Edward Gorey style–loaned by author/illustrator Byron Sewell.

This exhibition marks the first-ever showing of two of Karen Mortillaro’s anamorphic sculptural illusions, representing the first two Alice chapters, in what will someday be a series of twelve (for twelve chapters in the first book). Integrating science into artistically surprising forms, Mortillaro lifts Tenniel’s images from the flat page, transforming them into three-dimensional forms that change depending on the the oberver’s point of view. Her care and passion to detail, craftsmanship, and quality will be evident as viewers explore the changes between stainless steel and bronze parts of her sculptures. Maquettes, or character studies, will also be included in the exhibition.

A gem from the Arne Nixon Center’s permanent collection will feature Salvador Dali’s incredible Alice illustrations. Selected portfolio pages will showcase original gouache medium published by Maecenas Press in 1969. Dali’s interpretation brings together two of the most creative minds in Western culture, as both Carroll and Dali are considered ultimate explorers of dreams and imagination.

Glass cases will highlight varied interpretations of the Alice stories: first edition picture books, foreign translations, movie scripts, poems, sheet music, pop-culture spin-offs, and an illuminated manuscript will be shown.

On the third-floor Pete P. Peters Ellipse Balcony, viewers will find additional and original illustrations from picture books by Leonard Weisgard, on loan from his family. The wide range of color and media in his books, including gouache, poster paint, crayon, chalk, decoupage, stenciling, and pen and ink, present his innovative, mid-century modern style. In colorful scenes or monochromatic chapter headings, Weisgard’s use of negative space, coupled with a multitude of techniques, reflect his charming charming, magical style.

Leonard Weisgard won the 1947 Caldecott medal for illustration for his illustrations for The Little Island by Golden MacDonald (pseudonym of Margaret Wise Brown).

Visitors who fall down the rabbit hole will come away from the exhibition with an understanding of the broad scope of interpretations of Lewis Carroll’s works and an appreciation of the Arne Nixon Center. Children will be fascinated and inspired by the varying artifacts and art styles and adults will land in a world of artistic and literary rebellion where they can celebrate the “ambivalent, paradoxical nature of reality.”

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. Er….that subject heading — hyperbole just a pinch? Not to say this is not going to be a fantastic exhibit (Angelica Carpenter is a longtime Carrollian friend and I’m sure this exhibit is going to be amazing), but the 150th anniversary of the book’s publication is 2015 and there are plans, I tell you, plans in the works.

    The century is still young yet.

    • Elizabeth Bird says

      Be that as it may be, until 2015 rolls around this title stands. If you can name me another that has come out prior to this exhibit I’ll gladly cede the title. Until then, there is nothing written here that is inaccurate yet.