Monday, March 15, 2004
Mystic, Conn. Their art is often seen but rarely recognized. It adorns the covers of countless books and the pages of newspapers and magazines throughout the world. It stars in today's most popular animated films.
And yet, top illustrators -- such as Jack Davis (Mad Magazine), Peter deSeve ("Finding Nemo") and Mark Alan Stamaty ("Washingtoon" comic strip) -- remain virtually anonymous.
"People ask what I do and when I tell them I'm an illustrator, they smile and nod, but I can tell they are confused," Davis said, laughing.
A new exhibit at the Maritime Gallery at Mystic Seaport has more than 40 illustrators joining forces in a show inspired by images of the sea. Illustrator and show curator Randall Enos said the exhibit, which opens March 13, is a first.
"I've been in the business a long time and I don't think that all these people have hung side-by-side in a room together before," said Enos, who is best known for his "Chicken Guts" strip in National Lampoon.
Inspired by the work of his friends and colleagues, Enos wanted to showcase art that might normally only be given a passing glance. So he started making phone calls and sent out a nationwide e-mail, instructing the illustrators to draw, paint or write "anything nautical."
"Some of them were a little timid," Enos said. "But I told them, 'Don't think that you have to do the normal type of ship stuff. Do something completely different.'"
The response was an eclectic collection, ranging from flashy mermaid and pirate cartoons to scenes of Noah's Ark and boating expeditions.
Enos' own piece -- a linoleum cut collage titled "Whale Crew" -- features an illustration diagramming the different parts and jobs of a whaleboat and its crew. At the top is a quote by Clifford W. Ashley: "Such was the Yankee whaleboat as it was finally evolved; the most perfect water craft that has ever floated."
With such a variety of artists comes a wide variety of media.
The gallery will hang Gene Hoffman's 5-foot-tall killer whale sculpture made from bits and pieces of wood, while also showing a black-and-white, digitally composed image of a floating boat made by Bob Kessel. And then there's Anita Kunz's risque "Mermaid" illustration, made of mixed media, that shows a naked mermaid donning a pair of jeans and covering her chest with crossed hands.
"It's not just about boats in the water," Steve Souza, executive director of Stores at Mystic Seaport, said, adding that the exhibit pushes boundaries that other shows at the gallery haven't in the past.
Souza anticipates that the exhibit will feature about 100 works, with many illustrators contributing more than just one piece. Each illustrator will have a section dedicated just to his or her works that will be accompanied by a small biography.
"The public will get a chance to see, in the flesh, who some of these illustrators are," Enos said.
An oil piece by Kinuko Craft, an illustrator for almost 40 years, was actually done three years ago for the book "Jane and the Prisoner of Woolhouse." She also contributed a colorful and animated "Noah's Ark," complete with giraffes, camels and alligators, that was done 20 years ago for an insurance company.
Wendell Minor -- who did a paperback cover of Harper Lee's renowned novel, "To Kill a Mockingbird," in 1987 -- contributed "Revenge of the Whale," an illustration that originally adorned Nathaniel Philbrick's novel about a sperm whale that seeks vengeance on a whaling ship in 1820.