DANBURY, CONN. — Fifteen internationally acclaimed local artists will show selections from their works in “Thinking Visually: The Art of Connecticut Illustrators,” an exhibition celebrating the rich diversity of illustration as an art form that will run from Monday, Sept. 25, through Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017, in the Visual and Performing Arts Center Art Gallery at Western Connecticut State University.
An opening reception will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017, in the VPAC Art Gallery on the university’s Westside campus, 43 Lake Ave. Extension in Danbury. The exhibition will be open for public viewing during gallery hours from noon to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Admission for gallery viewing and the opening reception will be free and open to the public; reservations to attend the reception should be made online on the VPAC events web page at www.wcsuvpac.eventbrite.com. The Art Gallery exhibition program is sponsored by the WCSU Department of Art with support from gallery patrons; donations to sustain the program will be accepted.
The exhibition will provide a sweeping presentation of works encompassing a broad spectrum from popular children’s book illustrations, magazine covers, cardboard constructions and stamp designs for the U.S. Postal Service to evocative graphic images for cartoons, albums, advertising, video games, films and television series. Each of the participating illustrators resides in Connecticut and has attained critical recognition nationally and abroad through unique contributions to the art of illustration.
Artists who will be featured in the show include Guy Billout, Leslie Cober-Gentry, Robert Crawford, Bruce Degen, Randy Enos, Robert Giusti, James Grashow, Gerard Huerta, Roger Huyssen, Christine Kornacki, Ross MacDonald, Wendell Minor, Jon Sideriadis, Bill Thomson and David Wenzel. Following are brief biographical notes on each artist:
- Guy Billout, who began his career in advertising in his native France before moving to the United States in 1969, has established a distinctively minimalist style that uses dramatic imagery with clean lines in ironic illustrations published over more than four decades in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and other national publications. Upon his Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame induction in 2016, design critic Veronique Vienne described Billout as “the Buster Keaton of the illustration world. His illustrations represent acrobatic feats of mental agility in which events challenge the law of physics and logic — inverted perspectives, gravity-defying structures, upside-down skies, large objects sinking into shallow puddles — yet his characters retain a sense of composure no matter what.” He also has authored books including five works that earned selection by the New York Times for Best Illustrated Children’s Books.
- Robert Crawford is an illustrator, painter and book author whose works reflect the influence of magic realism and regionalism reminiscent of artists including Grant Wood and Thomas Hart Benton. His diverse works, which have earned awards from the Society of Illustrators, Communication Arts and other professional organizations, range from landscape and village scenes in his native northwest Connecticut to artwork for L.L. Bean and Celestial Seasonings, a mural for Bank of America, and covers for Rolling Stone, Fortune, Newsweek and other magazines. A common feature of his art is the placement of realistic imagery in a dream-like landscape reflecting the beauty and wonder of the surrounding world.
- Leslie Cober-Gentry, an adjunct professor of art at WCSU and adjunct instructor at the Fashion Institute of Technology, has created illustrations for nearly 50 publishing and corporate clients ranging from the Washington Post, Reader’s Digest and National Geographic to Disney, Sesame Street, Nike and Microsoft. Daughter of Alan Cober, whose legendary career was recognized by induction into the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame, Cober-Gentry published her first work in the New York Times at age 15. Recipient of an M.F.A. from the University of Hartford, her illustrations characterized by elegant and uplifting design have earned numerous honors from the Society of Publication Designs, Graphic Designs USA and other professional associations.
- Bruce Degen has gained international recognition as the illustrator for popular book series including “The Magic School Bus,” “Jesse Bear” and “Commander Toad,” and as author and illustrator of children’s books including “Daddy is a Doodlebug” and “Jamberry,” inspired by youthful summer visits to upstate New York. Recipient of an M.F.A. from Pratt Institute, Degen worked as an advertising assistant, opera scenery painter, printmaker and high school art teacher before “I got to a point where I decided there was something missing — and what was missing was humor!” he recalled. “I realized that the kind of art I always loved to draw was the kind you find in children’s books. So I did something I had never gone to school for — I became an illustrator.”
- Randy Enos has worked primarily with linocuts, a printmaking technique using a sheet of linoleum for a relief surface, to create illustrations and cartoons that have been featured in National Lampoon, The Nation, Time, Sports Illustrated and other national publications. He has served as an art instructor at Parsons School of Design, University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Rhode Island School of Design and other institutions, and has illustrated children’s books including “Mocha Dick,” inspired by his youth in the historic whaling center of New Bedford, Massachusetts. His artwork to promote a revival of British playwright Alan Ayckbourn’s “The Norman Conquests” received a National Cartoonist Society nomination for advertising illustration.
- Robert Giusti, son of the legendary graphic designer George Giusti, began his artistic career in painting and sculpture before changing course to pursue work in advertising design and publishing, leading to an appointment as art director at Random House that sparked his own creative interest in illustration. “My early illustrative style was graphic and ‘primitive’ surreal, much influenced by Magritte and Rousseau,” he observed. “Eventually, my work evolved into a more tightly rendered and precise, but still graphically conscious, style. Animals and nature subject matter in a neo-realism style appeared more readily than ever.” His illustrations for children’s books, album covers and diverse advertising forms from billboards to logos and TV animation have gained international recognition, as have his many stamp illustrations commissioned by the U.S. Postal Service.
- James Grashow returns to WCSU where he staged a solo exhibition in fall 2014 to celebrate the opening of the university’s Visual and Performing Arts Center. His “Corrugated Worlds” inaugural show at VPAC, like his previous “Corrugated Fountain” replica of Rome’s Trevi Fountain installed outside the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, represented prime examples of the cardboard constructions whose gallery showings have earned him widespread renown as “The Cardbooard Artist.” His biography observed that his work “ranges from large environmental installations through which the viewer traverses, to the delicate and contained world of ‘houseplants’ where homes and buildings replace flowers and buds in intricately constructed bouquets.” Recipient of an M.F.A. from the Pratt Institute, Grashow’s woodcut prints also have appeared in the New York Times and many other national publications.
- Gerard Huerta, a California native and graduate of Art Center College of Design, launched his career at CBS Records with artwork and logo creations for scores of leading artists from Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan to the Isley Brothers and the Charlie Daniels Band. He has gone on to establish himself as a premier designer of letter forms for the recording and movie industries as well as for national publication mastheads, corporate alphabets for Time-Life, Pepsi and Conde Nast, dials for the Swiss Army Watch, and logos for clients from Nabisco and Waldenbooks to Calvin Klein’s Eternity. His works are part of the Museum of Modern Art permanent collection, and his vintage guitar designs include “The Rock Ock” stringed instrument commissioned for the National Guitar Museum.
- Roger Huyssen, a Los Angeles native and recipient of an economics degree from the University of California at Santa Barbara, found his breakthrough in the recording industry as the graphic designer of close to 100 album covers for artists from Duke Ellington and James Brown to the group Boston, for which he created an iconic guitar spaceship image. His innovative and highly expressive artwork in many forms of visual communication have encompassed national ad campaigns, packaging designs, promotions for major TV networks, and poster art for “The Muppets,” “Star Trek” and Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Several of his more than 20 Time magazine covers are part of the National Portrait Gallery collection.
- Christine Kornacki is the author and illustrator of children’s books including “The Sparkle Box,” “The First Christmas Night,” “The Sparkle Egg” and the series created for the American Girl doll characters Marie-Grace and Cecile. Recipient of an M.F.A. from the University of Hartford, Kornacki uses oils to create richly colorful illustrations for children’s literature as well as advertising promotions. “With experience as a graphic designer, photographer and educator, I use this strong foundational background to bring my illustrations to life,” she observed. Her works have received recognition from the Society of Illustrators, The Artist’s Magazine, Creative Quarterly and other professional groups.
- Ross MacDonald learned his illustration, graphic design and printmaking craft on the job at several small printing and publishing houses in his native Canada before embarking in the United States on a career that has popularized his works in magazines, newspapers, movies, TV shows, comics and children’s literature. His illustrations have been published in scores of publications including Vanity Fair, Harper’s, The New Yorker and Rolling Stone, and his children’s books “Another Perfect Day” and “Achoo! Bang! Crash! The Noisy Alphabet” have earned Publisher’s Weekly Best Book awards. His skill with letterpress and drawing in re-creating retro-styled illustrations has placed him in high demand for creation of period “graphics props” for many TV series including “Boardwalk Empire” and movies such as “Silver Linings Playbook,” Seabiscuit,” “National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets” and Quentin Tarantino’s “Hateful Eight.”
- Wendell Minor has illustrated more than 50 award-winning children’s books and served as cover artist and designer for more than 2,000 books. His artwork for best-selling authors from Nathaniel Philbrick and Fannie Flagg to Mary Higgins Clark and Jean Craighead George has earned honors from Publishers Weekly, the American Library Association, the Parents Choice Foundation and other organizations. His collaboration with his wife Florence, a former ABC News documentary film editor who enjoys a second career as a children’s book author, was recognized with their selection in 2013 for the New England Independent Booksellers Association President’s Award for lifetime achievement in arts and letters; their book, “If You Were a Penguin,” was the 2009 “One Book, Every Child” early literacy choice for Pennsylvania. His children’s book art has been exhibited at the Norman Rockwell Museum and his painting for the cover of David McCullough’s “Truman” is now part of the National Portrait Gallery collection.
- Jon Sideriadis has built a solid reputation as a leading illustrator, designer and writer specializing in the science fiction and fantasy genres. With skills honed during his early work as a creature effects and makeup artist in Los Angeles, Sideriadis is in high demand for commissioned projects to create illustrations and production designs for animation, film, television, comics, video games and board games. Recipient of an M.F.A. from the University of Hartford, he is an instructor at the university’s art school as well as at the University of New Haven and Paier College of Art. Sideriadis currently is writing and illustrating an original mythology series, “Astromythos,” set in a universe of his own invention.
- Bill Thomson is a professor of illustration at the University of Hartford whose artwork for advertising, book and other editorial clients has garnered more than 75 awards from the Society of Illustrators in New York and Los Angeles, Communication Arts and other professional organizations. His recent illustration work has focused on the creation of children’s books that have earned widespread recognition including the Connecticut Book Award for Children’s Illustrator, the National Parenting Publications Gold Award, and prizes for children’s books across the United States as well as Japan and France. As an educator, he received University of Hartford awards for Outstanding Teacher in 2004 and Innovations in Teaching in 2011.
- David Wenzel is an illustrator and children’s book artist who has received international acclaim for his re-creation in graphic novel format of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit,” originally published in 1989 and recently republished with new artwork in 2012. Wenzel has dedicated much of his artistic work over the past three decades to the visualization and illustration of characters and creatures from mythological, fantasy and folk tales, ranging from graphic novels such as “The Wizard’s Tale” to children’s books such as “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and the “Little Bear” series. His biographical notes observed that his passion for studying history “inspires his artistic vision with its tales of adventure and indelible lessons, and acts as a guide when creating fantasy. Fantasy becomes more credible when it connects to us through a familiar path.”
For more information, contact the Department of Art at (203) 837-8403 or the Office of University Relations at (203) 837-8486.
Western Connecticut State University offers outstanding faculty in a range of quality academic programs. Our diverse university community provides students an enriching and supportive environment that takes advantage of the unique cultural offerings of Western Connecticut and New York. Our vision: To be an affordable public university with the characteristics of New England’s best small private universities.