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Book Project by Jay Ells

DATES September 19, 1981 through November 15, 1981
COLLECTIONS Contemporary Art
  • September 19, 1981 A BOOK PROJECT BY JAY ELLS, twenty-three drawings that incorporate pictures and text by artist/author Jay Ells to form a narrative HEAD LIKE A BEAR - WINGS LIKE AN EAGLE, will be on view September 19 through November 15 at The Brooklyn Museum in the Second Floor Prints and Drawings Galleries. The pictures (10 x 16 inches) are composed of ink drawing on one or more layers of transparent acetate over a ground of watercolor on paper. Integrated into the pictorial imagery, the calligraphy of the text depends upon the entire visual context for its meaning.

    “My stories always start from an imagined picture, some image from out of nowhere which vaguely disturbs me. The words of the text come from the imagined voice of some special woman,” writes Mr. Ells on the exhibition wall label. “I then conceive the story as a whole, the development, rhythm, and pacing before drawing each picture consecutively from the beginning. I watch the paper, wait for the image to appear and settle, and trace it, no matter how it surprises me.

    “This project began with the sudden appearance in my mind of an octopus eating two undefined creatures in the South Seas near Australia. The voice was that of my beautiful friend Maria. Her words grew out of the initial image (No. 13 in the exhibition) moving both toward the end and toward the beginning to complete the text.

    “While each picture is complete, it is also--like an aria in an opera, a sequence in a film, a stanza in a poem--an equal part of an ordered whole. The text in itself does not tell the story. I have for many years been attracted to Persian miniatures, Japanese Noh plays, and the operas of Richard Wagner. Perhaps these interests show in my work.”

    Several hundred illustrations in stories, puzzles and games by Mr. Ells have been published in children’s books and anthologies, among them some of the most widely read in the United States. Among his publishers are Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc. Western Publishing, Inc. and Bomar, Inc. His story, "The Boy Who Became a Hotel,” was selected for exhibition in 1976 at the International Children’s Book Fair in Bologna, Italy. Mr. Ells has had a one-man show of soft sculpture and illustrated books at what is now the Alternative Museum in Soho, New York City, and his paintings have won prizes in Germany and California.

    The exhibition was selected by Gene Baro, Consulting Curator of Prints and Drawings at The Brooklyn Museum.

    Brooklyn Museum Archives. Records of the Department of Public Information. Press releases, 1971 - 1988. 1981, 012-13.
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