Some of Theodor Seuss Geisel's art is straight from his storybooks. The rest is wildly unexpected.
The artist forever known as Dr. Seuss didn’t stop at writing and illustrating 44 wise and whimsical storybooks. While he produced popular literature by day, he spent his nights in the 1930s sculpting and painting for his own enjoyment. The Secret Art of Dr. Seuss Collection is largely unknown to the world, excepting art specialists and true Seuss enthusiasts. Now, a new exhibition is bringing a curated array on tour for public viewing. They’re available for acquisition, too—in other words, someone could actually take home "The Mulberry Street Unicorn" as a piece, instead of a page.
If I Ran the Zoo, a traveling exhibition visiting New York's LaMantia Gallery in November, will showcase secret Seussian art and feature 17 sculptures from the good doctor’s Collection of Unorthodox Taxidermy. That title comes from his materials: the master used real beaks, antlers, horns, lion’s teeth, and rabbit ears to create creatures like The Carbonic Walrus and The Two-Horned Drouberhannis. “Many of these were constructed from actual animals who met their demise at the Springfield Zoo,” Collection Curator Jeff Schuffman tells The Creators Project. “His father was in charge there, and he’d send his son these parts to draw from, as inspiration. But he ended up physically using them instead to create this incredible collection.”
Hence, the Turtleneck Sea Turtle originally featured a real turtle shell (just as the Goo-Goo-Eyed Tasmanian Wolghast was made of, you know, bits of wolghast). For If I Ran the Zoo, each limited-edition piece is adapted from the original and reconstructed using resin casts.
In 1997, six years after Theodor Seuss Geisel passed away, his wife Audrey began the process of bringing his subtly-crafted creations to the world. In the years following, his pieces traveled collections and continents, featuring alongside other masterpieces from greats like Picasso and Warhol. Per his request, Seuss' secret wish to be recognized as a serious artist was a fact she revealed only after his death. Perhaps this was due to so much of his work already making waves at the time. Meanwhile, he poured late hours into what he referred to as his Midnight Paintings, filling them with just as much pithy delight as his literature. Audrey wrote about them in The Cat Behind the Hat. “I’m gratified to carry out Ted’s wishes and have these works revealed to the world.”
Why this traveling exhibition now? “This year we’re reconstructing the final sculpture in Unorthodox Taxidermy,” Schuffman continues to tell us. “That piece will be unveiled, and there will be other artworks from The Cat in the Hat, Horton Hears a Who, the The Lorax, and several more.” It’s a rare shot at seeing and maybe owning a piece of Seussian wonder, Green Eggs and Ham on the side.
If I Ran the Zoo will run at LaMantia Gallery in Northport from November 12-27, 2016, with a special presentation the night of November 11th. Learn more here.