ESMoA in Oz

If ever there was an exhibit I wish could last forever, it would be the one that brought Oz to El Segundo, California, for the summer of 2019.  Just minutes from the Los Angeles International Airport, the El Segundo Museum of Art (ESMoA), installation showcased original Oz illustration between five original Aiseborn and Copyison murals. Digital features completed the plan. I blogged about the June opening, but after seeing it myself, I wanted to follow up with another report.

Local collector Freddy Fogarty, who was instrumental in the development of the exhibit, asked if I had original art I could loan. Sure! I sent reference photos and they asked for my Neill piece of the Wizard’s Workshop from Wonder City of Oz, a page from the 1970s Marvel comic of The Wizard of Oz, and some Skottie Young work from the more recent Marvel graphic novels. A local fine art shipping company packed my pieces and off they went.

I couldn’t make it out right away, but then they scheduled Brady Schwind to talk about the artwork on display in context of his Lost Art of Oz project. It was a quick trip, but worth it.

Right off the bat I realized that the poster for the exhibit was using a detail from a piece I’d loaned!  Too fun.  The entrance area was dominated by a graffiti wall surrounding a presentation of the Oz books. Many of the notes and illustrations visitors had left behind were charming, and I spotted many friends work on that wall. At the desk, I got my Oz passport stamped.

An advance peek at the murals while the exhibit was being mounted didn’t prepare me for the drama of walking into the space. They were fascinating! One in each of the five Oz colors, they captured imagery from Denslow, the 1903 musical, the film version of The Wiz, and the artist’s own imagination. The Emerald City, which you see from the entrance, was being constantly swept with projected animation that added detail and sparkle.

Oz collector Freddy Fogarty. The museum’s realistic portrayal of the way he surrounds himself with his Oz collection was a fantastic part of this exhibition.

Then there was Freddy’s Corner.  Astonished at Freddy Fogarty’s Oz-packed home, the museum opted to replicate it in the gallery using both photography and collectible material. They brought in cases, shelving to hold pieces, and covered the wall with edge-to-edge Oz. The resulting mix combined Oz books with the Wonderful Game of Oz, Oz peanut spread, foreign Oz material, Return to Oz pieces (Freddy’s rare Heart to Heart plush Tik Tok from Japan was showcased in a spot of its own) posters, all kinds of Oz ephemera…  It was just an eye-catching,  eclectic outpouring that shared the joy of Oz.  Polychrome’s costume from Disney’s 1985 film Return to Oz clothed a mannequin.  A selection of books that emphasize Oz illustration were added to a sitting area completing the living-with-Oz presentation.

Digital stations around the room allowed visitors to call up any piece in the exhibit to learn more about it. That feature, called the Grid, was available on their website, too, so I’d already gone through it at home. It was wonderful to see the names of so many collectors I know supporting the exhibit.

This magazine produced for tourists was in my room. Perfect! That illustration on the far right of Dorothy with Tik Tok and Billina is from the Oz Club’s collection.

After taking endless photos I popped back to my room to change and found the El Segundo tourism magazine waiting for me with a two-page spread about the exhibit. Then I met Freddy and Bill Graff for drinks at a tiki bar before the scheduled presentation.

Brady’s talk was well attended, and in the crowd I found several friends; we posed in front of the Emerald City.  Such a treat to see Howard Dorre, who was just a kid when I met him in the 1990s. John Coulter, one of my favorite modern Oz artists, was a wonderful surprise. Robyn and Dana Knutson, and Barbara Boehm from the ESMoA team joined us in a group photo at the Emerald City.

It was both a wonderful exhibit, adventure, and opportunity to celebrate Oz with other fans.



Oz Club 2020 Calendar Mails to Supporters

Each year the Oz Club provides our Sustaining, Patron, and Wizard’s Circle Members an Oz calendar for the coming year. It serves as our thank you gift; we appreciate your financial support and hope to express it without incurring substantial expense.

Each year the calendar has a different Ozzy theme. I do the majority of the work on the calendar and particularly enjoy finding and designing the full-color layouts for each month. Some years I have members contribute personal stories to fit the theme — for 2019 we featured different L. Frank Baum books outside the Oz canon with members sharing how they came across favorite copies. This year the calendar focuses on the decade of the 1920s.

The 1920s were rich in Oz milestones. Oz had a new author who brought us new books and new characters. It was a decade of firsts, like the first Oz film made after Baum’s lifetime, the first Oz Club, and the first Oz toys. It was also the decade in which Judy Garland was born. From Jean Gros’ French Marionettes to the Junior League plays of Elizabeth Fuller Goodspeed, Oz found its way to new audiences during this period.

These topics and more filled the 12 months. Scattered across the dates are bits of trivia tied to Oz. I generally always include publication dates of the Oz books as well as birth and death dates of important contributors to the world of Oz. But then I try to add anything I can find tied to the theme. So, for instance, this year I added the birth dates of actors from the 1925 film, dates of the 1927 coloring contest using Oz maps, and the 1929 read-aloud radio program that featured the Oz books. Of course dates for 2020 Oz events also are marked!

Next year’s calendar will feature animals of Oz as they’ve appeared in Oz books and productions. From the earliest appearances of Toto and Imogen, to Billina’s starring roll in Return to Oz and the Sawhorse rolling across the Wicked stage, our 2021 calendar will revisit Oz through the appearance of some of its most beloved non-human characters. Join or renew at one of the supporting levels and we’ll acknowledge your generosity with the 2021 calendar.