Delight Your Eyes

exhibit of illustrator Selznick’s work a delight for kids, adults

Tom Giffey

Ask any parent to list the simple joys of being a mom or dad, and reading to one’s child will likely be near the top of the list. Granted, reading a kid his or her favorite book for the 100th time in a row can grow tiresome, but on the whole the experience is a delight – and even more so when the book itself is delightful. And few contemporary children’s book illustrators have the ability to delight – not to mention amaze and mystify – children or adults like Brian Selznick. The Caldecott Award-winner has illustrated and/or written more than two dozen books in a distinctive style: His often black-and-white illustrations are meticulously detailed yet somehow grainy, as if the viewer is leaning in close to absorb the detail of an intricate engraving. Selznick is best known for The Invention of Hugo Cabret, a fabulous, 553-page tome he describes as “not exactly a novel, not quite a picture book, not really a graphic novel, or a flip book or a movie, but a combination of all these things.” The 2007 book – which was turned into a film in 2011 by none other than Martin Scorsese – is a rich tale involving an orphan boy, a Paris train station, and the history of cinema. The exhibit “From Houdini to Hugo: The Art of Brian Selznick,” now at UW-Eau Claire’s Foster Gallery, features 98 original illustrations from Hugo and 15 other of Selznick’s books – including The Houdini Box and The Boy of a Thousand Faces – done in pen and ink, graphite, acrylic, and colored pencil. The exhibit is wrapping up a four-year national tour, which began at the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature in Abilene, Texas, and ends this winter in Wilmington, Del. It’s a credit to Selznick’s artistry that these illustrations can hold their own both on a child’s bookshelf and in the hallowed confines of a fine art gallery, even without the words meant to accompany them (although at the exhibit you can peek inside the relevant book if you want to see each illustration in context). This show is an enchanting way to introduce a child to the world of fine art, or at least an opportunity to preview future storytime delights.

From Houdini to Hugo: The Art of Brian Selznick • through Thursday, Sept. 25 • 10am-4:30pm weekdays, 6-8pm Thursdays, 1-4:30pm weekends • Foster Gallery, Haas Fine Arts Center, 121 Water St. • FREE • (715) 836-2328 • http://www.uwec.edu/art/foster/