It sounds like an assignment for a second-grade art project: Choose an animal’s body part — a tusk or a beak or, say, a turtle shell — and create a whimsical, imaginary animal incorporating that body part.
But when it was Dr. Seuss doing the imagining in the 1930s, the result was a professionally sculpted, colorful, comical collection of 3-D mounted animals (or just their heads) called “The Dr. Seuss School of Unorthodox Taxidermy.” The series consists of 17 sculptures, including “Kangaroo Bird,” a bird with a long beak and a pouch holding a baby bird, and “Anthony Drexel Goldfarb,” an animal head with googly eyes and long, floppy bunny ears.
“If I Ran the Zoo,” a traveling exhibit of Dr. Seuss’ works that comes Northport’s LaMantia Gallery from Nov. 11-27, marks the first time all 17 taxidermy pieces can be seen in one place, says Jeff Schuffman of Chase Art Companies, which publishes the art of Dr. Seuss. The works are limited-edition, fine-art reproductions; the originals are owned by the estate, Schuffman says.
“People are so interested in learning about Dr. Seuss, and the sculptures are such an incredible example of his creativity and his Seussian style,” Schuffman says. The exhibit also marks the debut of Seuss’ “Powerless Puffer” taxidermy piece — 850 reproductions have been created and sell for $2,695 each. More than half of the other 17 pieces are sold out, Schuffman says.
30 WORKS IN ALL
Theodor Seuss Geisel — better known as Dr. Seuss — was the creator and illustrator of children’s books over the decades such as “The Cat in the Hat” and “Green Eggs and Ham” that have sold more than 500 million copies.
Geisel was born in 1904 in Springfield, Massachusetts, and died in 1991 in La Jolla, California. His second wife, Audrey, now 95, promised her husband she would, after his death, release his works that few people knew about. This exhibit includes reproductions of about 30 works by Seuss in all that will take over the entire LaMantia Gallery, says gallery owner James LaMantia.
This is the fourth year the gallery has hosted a Seuss exhibit; in the past up to eight taxidermy pieces have been shown there, but never all 17 at once. In addition to the taxidermy, there’ll be prints, such as a rendition of an elephant with wings popping from an eggshell for $395 unframed, and a sketch from “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” for $695 unframed.
‘KOOKY AND SEUSS-Y’
According to Seussian lore, Dr. Seuss’ dad, who was the superintendent of the Springfield Zoo, would give Seuss animal parts such as broken tusk pieces or lions’ teeth for inspiration for the taxidermy. A 1938 article in “Look” magazine dubbed Seuss “The World’s Most Eminent Authority on Unheard-Of Animals.”
“How does he come up with this stuff? He’s amazing,” LaMantia says. “He had a real great sense of humor.”
Of “Anthony Drexel Goldfarb,” with his dangling rabbit ears, LaMantia says, “Look at his expression. He’s just so sweet.” That wasn’t his impression of “Sludge Tarpon,” a fish with sharp, bared teeth and a long, swordlike nose. LaMantia’s favorite taxidermy piece, he says, is the green, eel-like “Gimlet Fish.”
“You just see him dancing along the waves,” he says. “He’s so kooky and Seuss-y.”
‘If I Ran the Zoo’
WHEN | WHERE Friday, Nov. 11, through Nov. 27 at LaMantia Gallery, 127 Main St., Northport. Gallery hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays and noon-4 p.m. Sundays. Meet Jeff Schuffman of Chase Art Companies, which publishes the art of Dr. Seuss at a free opening party 6:30-8:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 11, and 2-5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 12.
INFO 631-754-8414, lamantiagallery.com