A trip to the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, MA is a wonder in itself. It never fails that I am ‘blown away’, as my anticipation or expectation is fulfilled, yet not at all in the way I imagined.
My first visit, nearly ten years ago, was a shocker. I walked into the art exhibit and was face-to-face with an original illustration of Ezra Jack Keats from Peter’s Chair…in cut-out linoleum. Imagine that! I had read this book to my preschool class for years, yet who would know by reading the book that the illustrations were done in this fashion. I certainly didn’t!
My repeated visits, each one, held a similar experience. Plus, I walked away feeling as if I had been the first person to see the Grand Canyon.
While children’s picture books are a staple in libraries, schools and homes, few people have had the privilege and pleasure of seeing ‘the real deal’. I am one of the lucky ones. This week was no exception. I saw the art of Robert McCloskey, the illustrator of Make Way For Ducklings, Blueberries For Sal, Burt Dow, Deep-Water Man, and many other books. Here is what I saw:
Look at the white paint on the whale’s tail. It is raised and thick. Look at the yellow paint from inside the whale’s stomach. Yes, it is raised and thick, too. This is just like the best art of Jackson Pollock.
I have seen the tiny pencil lines along the tigers in The Story of Little Babaji, and the brush strokes of the sun in Madeline. I have seen how vivid the ink lines are on the bear in Blueberries For Sal.
There is quite a big difference between the Eric Carle Museum and an art museum; where an art museum allows one to see recognizable art, the Eric Carle Museum allows one to see, two inches away, art from everyday reading. That in itself is remarkable.
Watching the Red Sox on television can’t compare with being at Fenway Park. The same holds true with a live music concert at a symphony hall or a gymnasium.
Real is real, and that translates into sparking every emotion, and somehow validates the deepest feelings of the viewer or listener. The Eric Carle Museum does just that.
Next to reading aloud in my preschool class for the past thirty-two years, a trip to the Eric Carle Museum, including their terrific bookstore that is the top end, is the best.