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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Exploring Wonderland

As you probably know if you are a frequent reader of the Rosenblog or visitor to the Rosenbach, we have had a very busy fall with the opening of “Down the Rabbit Hole: Celebrating 150 Years of Alicein Wonderland." Alongside this wonderful exhibition—which is on now through May 15, 2016—we presented a full fall roster of public programs to highlight and explore themes in the exhibition.

Have you heard the one about the writer, the visual artist and the cognitive scientist stuck in a room with a copy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland? Well, they weren’t exactly stuck … and they were joined by a sold-out audience, but we presented just that on October 21, 2015, with the program “Alice and the Art of Looking.” The panel featured Maria Popova, founder of the “digest of interestingness” that is Brain Pickings; Maira Kalman, author/illustrator of many books for adults and children; and AlexandraHorowitz, a cognitive scientist who studies psychology and animal behavior. The trio's wide-ranging conversation addressed Alice's Adventures in Wonderland as a masterwork of narrative and an allegory for existence through science, storytelling, art, and asked the question, what is the “looking glass” of society today? The audience enjoyed diving into the unique perspective offered by each of the panelists even further during a lively question and answer period and proved just how many interpretations and experiences are contained within this one brilliant work.

The very next evening, we were thrilled to have Leonard Marcus, acclaimed children’s literature expert and guest curator for the “Down the Rabbit Hole” exhibition, present a slideshow talk on the significance of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in the philosophy and practice of the Surrealist painters. Particularly fascinating was the way in which Marcus drew connections between Lewis Carroll’s “nonsense” and its influence on the work of René Magritte and Salvador Dalí.

On November 11 and 18, Emilie Parker, Director of Education, and I made the trip to the lovely Bryn Mawr Film Institute to introduce two films: Dreamchild (1985, directed by Gavin Millar) and Alice (1988, directed by Jan Švankmajer). These were two of a four-part series of Alice-related films screened by BMFI in partnership with our exhibition. The films curated by BMFI illustrated just some of the ways in which Lewis Carroll’s classic book has had immense impact on a wide variety of filmmakers of varying styles and approaches. 

Before his appearance as part of the Free Library’s always-excellent Author Events series, we were honored to host Simon Winchester on November 16 in a sold-out talk on his book, The Alice Behind Wonderland, which explores Lewis Carroll’s photography and his depiction of the real-life Alice in his 1858 photo “Alice Liddell as the Beggar Maid”. Winchester elucidated the way in which a passion for photography, a very new hobby at the time, was a portal through which Charles Dodgson, a socially awkward Oxford mathematician, was able to access his creativity to create some of the most beloved literary works through his alter ego, Lewis Carroll. 

On December 3, artist and illustrator Charles Santore offered a robust Rosenbach audience a glimpse into his studio with a slideshow talk. Santore showed images depicting his progression in the illustration process of his edition of Alice’s Adventures Under Ground—from staged photographs, to sketches, to full watercolor panels. As an extra treat, the artist brought some original illustrations with him for an up-close look at his work. Santore’s generosity carried over into the book-signing where he took the time to include an original sketch in each book he signed for the audience.

Stay tuned for more exciting “Down the Rabbit Hole” events in 2016, starting with Christopher Morgan on Lewis Carroll’s puzzles and games on Thursday, January 21, 6:00 pm. If you are interested in a more intimate experience with our collection, check out one of our Lewis Carroll Hands-On Tours in January, February or March, or any of our other Hands-On Tours on a variety of subjects. Information on all of our programs is available on our website. We hope to see you soon!

Alexandra Wilder is the Sunstein Family Manager of Public Programs.

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