The exhibit of Charlie Santore’s work currently on display at the Woodmere Art Museum in Philadelphia is wonderful! I would encourage any Oz fans who can to see it. I flew out for the weekend to hear Michael Patrick Hearn’s presentation, “Toto, I’ve Got a Feeling We’re Not in Kansas Anymore, the Pictorial Legacy of Oz.” He shared images from The Wizard of Oz through the years and examples of other classic author/illustrator partnerships that have endured for generations. As with every Hearn lecture, it was fascinating and taught me all kinds of things I didn’t know.
While The Wizard of Oz is just one work in a lifetime retrospective of works included in “Charles Santore: Fifty years of Art and Storytelling,” a mural treatment of the Oz characters approaching the gates of Emerald City drew attention to the importance of the 1991 edition.
I counted 100 pieces of original artwork on display, of which ten are from Oz. I’d list a favorite, but how can could I single out any one? There’s the dramatic chaos of the Kansas tornado. The Cowardly Lion leaping across the chasm with his eyes squeezed shut in terror. The livid Wicked Witch of the West commanding her flying monkeys to attack. The memorable arc of water flying from Dorothy’s bucket at the face of the Witch. It was a pleasure to see all these lovely watercolors in person — and to watch other visitors to the gallery stand in front of them getting swept up in the narrative of Santore’s masterful work.
It was lovely to see Charlie Santore again, too. He spoke at the Club’s 2016 convention and hosted Micheal and me for dinner one evening. That was my first unforgettable Santore memory, the experience of this weekend is just as priceless.
Oz friends also made the weekend great fun. Lynn Beltz met my flight and served as roommate. We spent an evening at Ryan Bunch and Micah Mahjoubian’s. Atticus Gannaway, also in town for the event, was there. Dave Kelleher and Mark Heilmann joined us by Michael’s talk on Saturday. We all had dinner together (after loitering in the museum until they had to turn out the lights). Lynn, Michael and I went back Sunday for our own encore viewing.
I so encourage anyone who can to visit the Woodmere for this. Exhibits of this caliber are few and far between. I’ve found there have been a lot of once-in-a-lifetime events during my 40+ years of Oz. I have unforgettable memories of those I’ve been able to experience, and nothing but regrets for those I’ve missed. Check the museum’s calendar for a book signing, free Sundays and other exhibit events.
As a postscript for fans who do make it, you also will find on the second level of the gallery one of Santore’s illustrations from Baum’s The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus. Don’t miss that one!