“I’m really what they call in the States ‘outsider art.’” : The Work of Etienne Delessert
Last August I had some fun highlighting The Creative Company’s series of short stories published as individual books. You know. The Monkey’s Paw. The Lottery. The Most Dangerous Game. That kind of stuff. While looking at their covers I couldn’t help but notice that quite a few were done by the artist Etienne Delessert. Delessert’s one of those creative types you see around and about but perhaps never get a firm grasp on. You may have seen the Seven Impossible Things post on Delessert in January of 2010. You may even have come across some of his better known books, like Moon Theater or The Big and Bad. But until now you’ve just had a vague sense of him. You know he’s cool, but what do you really know about the guy?
Well recently I discovered that the illustrious Eric Carle Museum (located in scenic and snowy Amherst, MA) is now hosting a one-of-a-kind Etienne Delessert exhibition. Yep. Tis true. Now part of what I love about this, aside from the obvious, is the fact that the exhibit was created in part with the help of the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia and was organized by the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature, Abilene, Texas. I’m a fan of any presentation that constitutes a worldwide effort. And here’s a challenge for you Americans out there: Name me all the Swiss-born authors or illustrators of children’s books you can. Tough, eh?
The exhibit is described in this way:
This retrospective of Delessert surveys his distinguished career that comprises more than eighty books collectively translated into fourteen languages. From his early collaboration with Eugene Ionesco to surreal and politically-charged interpretations of Big and Bad and Humpty Dumpty, Delessert intrigues his readers, young and old, with his imaginary creatures and landscapes.
Ionesco? Really? In that case I think this is the first time I’ve heard of the children’s literature/Ionesco connection. It’s funny which authors and playwrights choose to write for kids (in a perfect universe I’d love to see something like The Edward Albee Counting Book). And in case you didn’t believe me:
Not that the exhibit is the only Delessert thing to see at the museum. There will be showings of the man’s animation as well. Actually, you can get a taste of it yourself, if you like. Travel to his website and you’ll find a variety of different videos of Delessert pieces (much of it made for Swiss television). Some of it looks to me like nothing so much as Terry Gillian’s Monty Python animation if you classed it up and gave it some style. Observe:
And if you feel like having your mind blown for a while, watch all five of the videos on the site.
What does he have coming out in the future? Says Mr. Delessert: “I have two books coming out! One is 4 stories by the playwright Eugene Ionesco, coming out in May with McSweeneys, and another one coming out late summer with Creative Editions . . . written by Aaron Frish, called The Lonely Pine (a year in Alaska as seen by the loneliest of the pine trees.).”
For more info on Delessert (and to hear his story in his own words) check out the interview conducted with the North Adams Transcript, Swiss illustrator is anything but bland. It’ll give you a new appreciation of an artist we should have been watching from the start.
Thanks to Sandy Soderberg for the tip!
For those of you interested, here are some other Delessert-related events happening at The Carle:
In the Auditorium
Themes, Theories, and the Art of the Picture Book
Sunday, April 17, 2011
11:00 am – 1:00 pm
Join award-winning artist, Etienne Delessert as he shares his thoughts, both practical and philosophical, on drawing, painting, storytelling, and the world of picture books. Delessert will talk about the how and why of the images he creates and the audiences for which they are intended. As a self-taught artist, Delessert has been translating his ideas, passions and thoughts into the visual language of books, magazines, posters and for more than 30 years.
Free with Museum Admission
Gallery Tour and Book Signing by
Sunday, April 17, 2011
Free with Museum Admission
Etienne Delessert is a painter, graphic artist, illustrator, and publisher who has created an exemplary and very personal body of work. His books, which have been translated into more than 15 languages, have influenced his contemporaries and inspired children for decades. Come meet the author and hear about the stories behind the artwork!
Friday, May 20th
In the Art Studio
Master Art Class taught by
9:30 – 12:30
$75 (Members $65)
Learn from this self-taught artist who for more than 30 years has been translating his-and the world’s-ideas, passions, fantasies and nightmares into the visual language of books, magazine illustrations, posters, animated films, paintings and sculptures. He reaches both children and adults with his imaginary creatures and landscapes, juxtaposing the familiar with the fantastic to clarify this world and create new and lasting universes.
For ages 16 and up some experience recommended
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About Betsy Bird
Betsy 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.
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