Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Seuss Falls

The WP scores another BIG Hit with their current exhibit: Seuss Falls: Discovering the Arts andScience of Dr. Seuss.

The Washington Pavilion has brought another Do Not Miss exhibit to Sioux Falls. I love books. Cultural and social history is far more than a passing interest to me. The Seuss exhibit is well done; for history it is a solid A and the art, which is quite familiar, yet still interesting gets a B (not spectacular.)

Theodor Seuss Geisel was inventive, innovative, and imaginative. His career, as his art went through very diverse stages. Primarily Geisel was an illustrator. His illustrations take on a very artistic touch. Though artistic his drawings are welcoming as shown later in his creatures that have a certain warm cuteness. In addition to his drawing talent Geisel was poetic. He was fascinated by sounds and hypnotic rhyme; He possessed a strong social conscience.

During his lifetime Geisel’s privately created serious artworks that are an interesting segment of the exhibit dubbed his “Secret Art.”  The piece of his more serious Secret Art that I liked was done in 1932 titled, “Incidental Music For a New Year’s Eve Party. One of his cartoons that touched me took on a political tone. It was a 1940 work called “The Knotty Problem of Capital Hill” …further described as: “Finding a way to raise taxes without losing a single vote.”

Geisel began his career as a Cartoonist, working primarily for magazines, creating cartoons, illustrations, advertising and covers.

From magazines he segued into the Advertising creating “Ad Art.” He worked for some of the Big Boys including Standard Oil of New Jersey and Ford Motor Company. For Standard Oil of NJ (Humble Oil and Refining Company we called it in Texas) he worked on a bug spray named “Flit.” Apparently Flit contained DDT or some type of human toxin for which Geisel later felt some embarrassment by association. Years later he penned  “The Lorax” that extolled the virtues of environmentalism.

Geisel worked in the Advertising field for fifteen years, though interrupted by his service during World War II. In the Army he worked for the U S Military Office of Information and Education creating posters and other advertising matter. In 1943 he authored movie scripts for a military unit headed by Frank Capra, the renowned director doing war documentaries. Geisel won two Academy Awards  (Documentary Feature and Animated Short Film) for his work in the Army and was awarded the Legion of Merit.

Geisel’s next career field was as a writer and illustrator of children’s books. Dr. Seuss (Geisel’s pen name taken from his middle name) is probably the most well-known and popular Children’s authors of all time. He sold over 600,000,000 (that’s 600 MILLION!) books.

Among his most popular books are: “The Cat In the Hat”, “Green Eggs and Ham”, “How the Grinch that Stole Christmas”, and “Horton Hears a Who.”

The good Doctor’s social conscience besides, “The Lorax” and environmentalism, extended to “Sneetches”  - tolerance and racial prejudice and “Yertle the Turtle” dictatorship and expansionism.

Factoids of fancy for me – “The Cat in the Hat” was written as a reading primer and contained 225 new reader vocabulary words. “Green Eggs and Ham” was written as the result of a $50 bet between Geisel and his publisher at Random House, Bennett Cerf; that Geisel could not write a book using only 50 words. Dr. Seuss won. The resultant 62-page book used only 50 words, 49 of them were one syllable and the 50th word was “anywhere.”

Geisel believed, “no matter the media, every piece of paper was a canvas.”

This exhibit was a solid effort by the WP. The cost is a little spendy, $18 adult admission. Despite the higher cost, I hope the Pavilion programmers keeping bringing on these art exhibitions.

Cultural Notes – Endbar

In conjunction with the Seuss Falls exhibit there was (they took it away before my second visit) a display case in the entryway outside the entrance to the exhibit that contained four or so whimsical music instruments (perhaps Geisel inspired) loaned from the American Music Museum on the University of South Dakota campus in Vermillion. As many of the exhibits at the Vermillion museum, they are unique.

The American Music Museum (formerly Shrine to Music Museum) needs to get “Out There” – it’s a TREASURE and nobody has ever heard of it much less seen it.

Unfortunately music lovers just are not traveling to Vermillion. The museum’s collection is World Class, nothing else even close in North America and maybe (I understand) one of the three best on the Planet Earth. I understand a new building is planned and a new marketing is being studied. If you haven’t seen the American Music Museum it’s less than an hour’s drive. You will not regret the trip. They have a world class website – check it out.

More music but closer to home is the America’s Music series that is ongoing at Siouxland Libraries.

A film, lecture, and performance series has been first rate. It continues through the end of June. On successive Sunday’s Augustana College Music Department Chairman, Scott Johnson has lectured, led discussion, and shown films on the history of Rock and Roll, Broadway, and Jazz. There was an outstanding presentation on guitar craftsmanship, last month by a local guitar maker (luthier), Josh Rieck, and I am looking forward to SDSU music faculty Anthony Lis who will talk again about Blue Yodels, Prairie Radio, and Arizona Swing: The Country Music Life of Billy Burkes.

Culture is alive in South Dakota.