Visiting Charles Santore’s Retrospective at Woodmere

Another post in a series of perspectives from ARTZ Philly’s interns, Stephanie and Alexandra!

ARTZ offers an array of programs in which participants are able to connect with art and each other. Each program touches on a different aspect of creating and connecting. On a chilly Friday morning last week, I attended an ARTZ at the Museum program, held at the Woodmere Art Museum in Philadelphia, PA. During “ARTZ at the Museum”, Susan facilitates a group of participants with an open discussion about one, or a set of art pieces. (To learn more about ARTZ at the Museum, click here!)

a painting of playing cards falling onto a girl in a blue and yellow dress

On Friday we were to explore the beautiful Charles Santore exhibit, a showcase of the vast array of illustrations over the course of his career. His work spans over 50 years, with illustrations for children’s books, pop culture and film. The pieces we were looking at were from ‘Alice in Wonderland’ all done with watercolor. Looking at a piece where Alice seems to be falling through the library floor, Susan opens up the conversation by asking, “So, what do you think is happening in this painting?” One participant is enamored by the lack of stairs on the staircase, and another participant says it looks like she is floating. The conversation continues, and context behind the story begins to unfold. Another participant, who is a graphic designer, visiting with his father, gave the group a little info about the original story. “Alice and her sister are in the library and she is feeling sad. So she drinks something from a table and begins to fall through the library floor.” This was news to me, as it has been a bit too long since I have read Alice in Wonderland… it was wonderful being able to learn new facts about the context of the story. This is another reason why I love coming to this program. There are so many different viewpoints, different levels of knowledge about the art or artist, and ways of seeing a piece of art, which Susan pointed out by saying “We all see things differently, which makes for a beautiful conversation.”

We dissect the next few paintings, which show Alice traveling through her Wonderland, growing nine feet tall, having tea with the Mad Hatter, smoking hookah with the Caterpillar, and outsmarting the Queen of Hearts. The order of painting shows Alice’s change in demeanor, and character transformation. Santore captures this transformation beautifully with intricate facial details, and use of painted sun light and warm hues. By really looking at these pieces, it “tests our perception and our depth of view” said Hildy, the museum’s art curator. She continued by saying, “by dissecting the story, we are unraveling meaning”. I always leave these programs with new knowledge, and more importantly, a new way of thinking, and seeing, which is why I feel our participants continue to attend our programs. It not only opens up a new way of seeing art, but a new way of seeing life.

— Stephanie Kong, ARTZ Philadelphia Intern 2017/18; Graduate of Temple University’s Human Development and Community Engagement Program

Charles Santore: 50 Years of Art and Storytelling has been extended through May 18! Read more here.

To hear more from Steph and Alexandra, ARTZ Philly’s 2017-2018 interns, come back and visit the blog!