Maurice Sendak art exhibit arrives at Burton Barr Library in Phoenix
I don’t remember when I first read Where the wild things are – probably not when it was first published, although I was just old enough to read. I didn’t have a copy of mine, because my parents were more of the Little Guest Book type. I don’t remember if I liked him at first sight or if he grew on top of me, but when my oldest arrived, Where the wild things are has become our book to sleep. Not smart good night moon for us. Erica memorized the text when she was three and a half years old, then she “read” it to me: “dae roed dair tairrible roes an nashd dair tairrible teef an roeld dair tairrible ies an shoed dair tairrible claus. We had a plush wild thing (okay, we still do). So yes, I am a big, big fan of Maurice Sendak.
And now, opening June 3 with a first wild Rumpus Friday, the Phoenix Public Library has a traveling exhibit – “50 Years of Sendak” – for six weeks at the Burton Barr Library, with activities planned in branches. from the city. The exhibition has been on tour for three years (since the 50th anniversary of Wild things) and is scheduled for at least another two and a half months. It includes 50 pieces of Sendak art, many of which are from private collections, and quotes from 50 influencers on how Sendak’s work inspired them. There will be several screenings of the 2009 Spike Jonze movie, drawing workshops (which adults can attend, yes!), Wild sleepovers (how many wolf costumes will there be?), And more.
The 50 pieces of art range from some of his premieres, including Macbeth, which Sendak illustrated as a grade 10 homework project, through concept drawings and notes for the opera version of WWTA and art for later books. Included, to my surprise, is an image titled Mickey and me, in which Sendak pictured himself looking in a full-length mirror and waving at him – only to see Mickey Mouse waving at him. Who knew Sendak was a Disney aficionado and a Disneyana collector?
But Wild Things are the stars of this show – over 50% of the art is Wild Things, which Sendak never seemed to tire of. This is our gain, because the book he sold as his first was contracted under the title Where are the wild horses. Sendak has often repeated the story of how this book turned out to be what it has become: after several frustrating months, its editor determined that Sendak couldn’t draw horses. Pressed for her to know what he could draw, Sendak replied, “Things. I can draw things.”
I can’t imagine what the trajectory of Sendak’s career would have been if he had completed the equine project. I doubt there are many reasons to celebrate the 50th anniversary of this original premise. If there was, well, I suspect the wild horses wouldn’t be able to drag me to this show, but this one … I’ll eat it, love it so much.
“50 Years of Maurice Sendak: Where Are the Wild Things” opens at the Burton Barr Library in Phoenix on Friday, June 3, with a reception from 6:30 to 8 p.m. The free exhibition remains visible until July 17. For more details and events, see the Phoenix Public Library website.