Dr. Seuss is beloved worldwide for his books, art, and characters filled with whimsy, wit and bits of wisdom. Fans of the Cat in the Hat, the Lorax, and the Grinch will find plenty of delight at the exhibition of Seuss art at Northport's POP by LaMantia Gallery this month. They're also likely to make discoveries and maybe find new favorites.
"The biggest surprise is people don't realize that he did these sculptures in the '30s and '40s," says James LaMantia, co-owner and co-curator, with Sharmila Amico, of the exhitions that are coming to the new offshoot exhibition space of the of the decades old LaMantia Gallery. Seventeen Seuss sculptures from "If I Ran the Zoo" will be on view. "He called them unorthodox taxidermies," LaMantia explains. "These were done before most of the Seuss characters were ever developed. It's sort of a look into the genius of what Seuss was to become."
CHARACTERS AND CREATURES
Theodor Seuss Geisel was born in 1904 in Springfield, Massachusetts. As a child, he adored the zoo. After he left to start a career in New York, his father became parks superintendent. When an antler broke, or a horn fell off a zoo animal, he'd ship it to his son with the directive, LaMantia says, "Do something creative with this." Never lacking imagination, Geisel created whole new imaginary species that would populate his work for years to come.
"There's a character named 'Anthony Drexel Goldfarb.' His smile is just captivating," says LaMantia of a sculpture of a gentle-looking creature with hound-like droopy ears and an infectious grin.
"He's my favorite, too," says Amico. "We're not supposed to have favorites, but when you look into his eyes you'll know why." As with all the Seuss art on view, a limited number of exact replicas, produced through the Geisel estate, are available at the gallery.
LaMantia has been exhibiting Dr. Seuss's art for more than 10 years. "This year," says Amico, "we have two exhibitions at the same time, which is a bit of a rarity.'"
WHAT YOU'LL SEE
While the Cat in the Hat may need little introduction, Ted Geisel, the artist behind the character, might. This show provides it. There's a self-portrait of Geisel wearing the famous cat's hat, and, at the exhibitions' opening event on Saturday, Nov. 16, a Seuss expert will be on hand all day to talk about the artist. About 30 prints featuring top-hatted cats, pool-playing cats, fields of cat's eyes, and more are in the exhibition. Visitors will also find Sam-I-Am, Horton and other favorites.
As charmingly silly as Dr. Seuss could be, he also had a serious side. Geisel worked as a political cartoonist in his early years voicing support for human rights, and he peppered his children's books with wise sayings like "a person's a person, no matter how small."
LaMantia says that Geisel's widow Audrey, who died last year, said the artist had a routine for doing his creative work. By day, that meant working on illustrations for his books. "At night he would just do paintings that moved him, on subjects that he would imagine. He used to call it his midnight art," says LaMantia.
Prints from this "secret art" series will be on view in the Northport exhibitions as well. The annual event has become a crowd-pleaser.
"When we have a fall show of the Seuss estate, there's thirty days of smiles in the gallery,' LaMantia says. "Whether you're 5 years old or 85, there's something about Dr. Seuss that touches everybody."
"The Cat Behind the Hat" and "If I Ran the Zoo" the art of Dr. Seuss
WHEN | WHERE Nov. 16-Dec. 7 at POP By LaMantia 90 Main St., Northport
INFO 631-651-9571, popbylamantia.com