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Children's Book Magic at Woodson Art Museum


With a swish of a wand and a rousing "Abracadabra," the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum turns art into magic with the children's book illustrations of David Diaz and Robert Sabuda. "Children's Book Magic" opens November 15, 2003 and remains on view through February 1, 2004. (right: From The Blizzard's Robe, copyright 1999, Robert Sabuda)

Diaz and Sabuda are wizards of the imagination who bring their skills to bear on topics ranging from fairy tales and familiar favorites including "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" and "The Night before Christmas" to historic events like the 1992 Los Angeles riots as interpreted in Diaz's Caldecott Medal-winning illustrations in "Smoky Night." A total of 120 artworks - 60 by each artist - feature original watercolor and acrylic paintings, batiks, collages, cut-paper mosaics, and pop-up paper constructions used to illustrate 21 books.

Both artists will make personal appearances in Wausau on two different weekends. Robert Sabuda opens the exhibition with programs and book signings at the Woodson Art Museum and Marathon County Public Library on November 15-16. He speaks to adults at the Museum on Saturday at 10 a.m. and then offers "Make a Pop-Up" for children at the Library from 2-4 p.m. On Sunday his pop-up program at the Museum runs from 1:30-3 p.m.

David Diaz comes to Wausau in January. He speaks to adults at the Museum on Saturday, January 24, at 10 a.m. and then goes to the Library for "Let's Face It" at 1:30 p.m. This program is geared to children in grades 3-7. The Museum hosts a "Family Fiesta" with Diaz as special guest on Sunday, January 25, from 1:30-3:30 p.m. The day includes Madison storytellers Clare Norelle and Gilma Arenas, storytelling, hands-on activities, music, and fiesta fare. Spanish-speaking translators will be available.

A selection of Sabuda and Diaz books will be available for purchase at the Library during the artists' visits and at the Museum throughout the exhibition. A gallery walk of their artworks with the artists can be viewed via video.

Robert Sabuda is widely regarded as the contemporary master of pop-up book engineering. His inspiration and passion to create movable books stem from a childhood visit to the dentist, where he found comfort in a pop-up book as he waited his turn. Sabuda created his first pop-up at age eight. His first published pop-up was "The Christmas Alphabet" in 1994 followed by "The 12 Days of Christmas" in 1996, both of which became best-selling holiday classics. (right: From The Little Scarecrow Boy, copyright 1998, David Diaz)

In "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz," considered his masterpiece, tornadoes truly twist, poppy fields bloom, the Emerald City sparkles, and the Wizard's hot air balloon rises off the page thanks to Sabuda's technical craftsmanship. Its popularity as a pop-up tour de force is currently being rivaled by the artist's recently published "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland."

After earning a B.F.A. from Pratt Institute and before devoting himself to pop-up books, Sabuda began his career in picture-book art as a linoleum-block printmaker. His has also worked in other mediums, including cut-paper and paint on papyrus in "Tutankhamen's Gift," painted tissue paper cut in Chinese style in "The Paper Dragon," and brilliantly colored batik in "The Blizzard's Robe."

David Diaz uses bright colors and a distinctive painting style paired with photography and collage to explore history, imaginary worlds, and the real, sometimes complicated, society that we live in. In 1995 Diaz was awarded the Caldecott Medal for "Smoky Night," a story based on the 1992 Los Angeles riots. With their bold colors and striking collages, his "Smoky Night" illustrations contrast sharply with the whimsical paintings from "Shadow Story" and "The Little Scarecrow Boy." Though these fairy tales are considerably more lighthearted, they, too, reflect Diaz's signature style as well as his adaptability. (right: From The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, copyright 2000, Robert Sabuda)

Diaz traces his artistic career to first grade when he filled in the "o" of the word nose on a vowel worksheet and then went on to complete a face picture on the worksheet. He didn't know the word illustrator at that time but knew he wanted to be a "drawer." Diaz, whose work is sometimes compared to that of George Roualt or Marc Chagall, is a graduate of the Fort Lauderdale Art Institute.

Two themes appear consistently in books illustrated and/or written by David Diaz: a sense of hope - even when dealing with social issues fraught with controversy ­ and a strong and kind mother figure. The latter may be attributed to Diaz's devotion to and admiration for his late mother, who died when he was 16.

Presenting sponsors for "Children's Book Magic" are the Gannett Foundation, Wausau Daily Herald, Abbotsford State Bank, Fiskars, and the Wisconsin Humanities Council.

The illustrations in "Children's Book Magic: David Diaz & Robert Sabuda" are organized for tour by the National Center for Children's Illustrated Literature, Abilene, Texas.


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