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Denise Fleming: Painting with Paper

May 17 - August 31, 2008


Joslyn Art Museum continues its year-long series of Mind's Eye Gallery exhibitions pairing stories and art for young people with an exhibition of vibrant artworks by author and artist Denise Fleming (below). Denise Fleming: Painting with Paper opens May 17 and continues through August 31, 2008.

In this age of technology, when even picture book creators rely on computers for both function and form, Denise Fleming's organic artwork stands out as unique, deceptively simple, and totally captivating. Artists choose their medium; Fleming makes hers. Her recipe: pour watery paper pulp consisting of cotton rag fiber and materials such as coffee grounds, pine needles, or dried leaves into a squeeze tube, add pigments, apply to hand-cut stencils, and overlay with bursts of creative energy. The result is an image in handmade paper. A singular, signature style! (right: Denise Fleming, "Six cranes" (detail) from Count!, 1992)

Fleming's debut book using this unusual process known as pulp painting was In the Tall, Tall Grass (1991), a toddler's view of creatures found in the grass described in rhymes. It received immediate recognition by winning a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award and other notable citations. Her fascination with natural habitats led to a companion book, In the Small, Small Pond -- a storybook so successful that it received an acclaimed Caldecott Honor Award in 1993.

Fleming's other award-winning books to date include Count!, Lunch, Barnyard Banter, Where Once There Was a Wood, Time to Sleep, Mama Cat Has Three Kittens, The Everything Book, Pumpkin Eye, Alphabet Under Construction, Buster, The First Day of Winter, and The Cow Who Clucked. Beetle Bop (2007) "sings with her rhythmic, alliterative, onomatopoeic text . . . and her bold, bright, bustling illustrations." (Publisher's Weekly) Fleming's latest book, Buster Goes to Cowboy Camp, is due out this spring.

Nearly 80 original, color-saturated artworks from 13 books by this talented author and illustrator comprise Denise Fleming: Painting with Paper. A video of the artist talking about her work is on continuous loop in the gallery. All Fleming titles that are currently in print will be available in Joslyn's Hitchcock Museum Shop in hardcover, paperback, and board book versions. Joslyn Art Museum's education department is planning a variety of art classes and camps in pulp painting and story illustration for children and adults this summer. Visit www.joslyn.org for details or call (402) 661-3859.

Denise Fleming: Painting with Paper was organized by the National Center for Children's Illustrated Literature, Abilene, Texas. After Joslyn, the show will travel to the Irving Arts Center in Irving, Texas, and the Miller Art Museum in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. At Joslyn, the exhibition is the third in a series of four Mind's Eye Gallery installations presenting an engaging look at the importance of illustrations in children's books. The series began with the 2007 show SPEAK! Children's Book Illustrators Brag About Their Dogs (closed February 24), followed by The World of William Joyce (March 1 through May 4). The series will conclude with the exhibition The Many Faces of David Diaz (October 4 through December 28). (left: Denise Fleming, "A radio tuned to his favorite station" from Buster, 2003)


Joslyn's Story Adventures to Highlight Work of Denise Fleming

Joslyn Art Museum and Omaha Public Library present Story Adventures, a free program designed to nurture young children's love of art and stories. Preschoolers and young readers, accompanied by an adult, are invited to stop by the Museum this summer for a special Story Adventures Saturday mini-series featuring books by acclaimed Caldecott Honor Award-winning author and illustrator, Denise Fleming.

On Saturdays, June 21, July 19, and August 16, at 10:30 am each day, children's librarian Sarah English will read picture books by Fleming. Little ones will participate in simple activities connecting the stories to original artwork from the books on view in Joslyn's Mind's Eye Gallery. These special summertime Story Adventures sessions are scheduled during the Museum's free general admission period for the public, Saturdays, 10 am to noon, funded by a grant from the Peter Kiewit Foundation. Story Adventures will return to its regular time, the third Wednesday of each month, beginning in September. Stories will celebrate themes in Joslyn's permanent collection.


About Denise Fleming

Denise Fleming, a self-described "Maker of Things," was born in Toledo, Ohio, in 1950. Her childhood was filled with busy days playing out of doors with other children in her neighborhood and taking classes at The Toledo Museum of Art. She frequented the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library's Sanger Branch weekly, never imagining that, years later, when the library opened the doors of its new building, she would lead her friends and family on a tour of the Children's Room-which was designed around her books. (right: Denise Fleming)

Fleming's love of strong color was inspired by her mother's decorating their home in shades of green, yellow, lavender, and coral. During high school she took lots of art classes, followed by studies at the Kendall School of Art and Design in Grand Rapids, Michigan. After art school, Fleming worked as a freelance artist, eventually looking for book work in New York City. The first story she both wrote and illustrated, In the Tall, Tall Grass was published when she was 41. Today, her husband, David, and daughter, Indigo, read drafts of her stories aloud to help her refine their rhythm and rhyme.

The artist notes, "Even though most of my books have few words, I start with hundreds of words. I write and rewrite until I have just the right words to tell the story. Many of my books are about nature. I can spend hours watching birds, insects, and other creatures go about their lives. I can't imagine not making books. Every time I put words and pictures together to make a book it seems like magic. I feel very lucky to be able to make a living doing something that is so satisfying."

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