Wednesday, March 21, 2007

?Off the Page? at The Center

R. Gregory Christie illustrates balance


By SABINA DANA PLASSE
Express Staff Writer

?The Trial? 2000 by R. Gregory Christie. Acrylic on paper.

Illustrated children's books have the ability to enliven the imagination and present an understanding to life through simple but prophetic stories. Illustration connects meaning through imagery, which is an important part of learning, but it is also an art form that has survived thousands of years.

The Sun Valley Center for the Arts in Ketchum presents its latest multidisciplinary project, "Off the Page," an exhibition dedicated to children's illustrations and its importance as a respected art form, on Friday, March 23, through Friday, May 18.

The ultimate purpose for an illustration is to tell a story. Through several disciplines, such as an on-site mural painting, interactive theater performance and classes, The Center will examine children's illustration by taking it "off the page" and placing it on display.

The exhibition will include works by award-winning illustrators Peter Sis, Chris Raschka and R. Gregory Christie. In addition, Christie will be spending a week-long artist-in-residence in Ketchum where he will paint a mural in the gallery as well as discuss the art of illustration and his own processes.

Christie began "painting live" in 1995 where he would paint at nightclubs among DJs and parties.

"You never knew who was behind you," Christie said. "I had people watching me who sent me to England, Sweden, Malaysia and different parts of the world to paint."

Combining a realism and imagination to tell stories, Christie has always sought a balance in life between his art and education.

"People connect to the work because I am trying to maintain a balance of keeping my integrity as an artist and a painter, and work it all into a children's book. I try to mix the two. I studied realism, which you can see in my faces, and 65 percent of the painting is in the faces, and then it's more free in the background."

Receiving the Coretta Scott King Award in 1996 for his first illustrated book, "The Palm of My Heart: Poetry by African American Children," Christie has been honored twice again since. In addition, his book "Only Passing Through: The Story of Sojourner Truth" was named one of the New York Times Best Illustrated Books of the Year.

"I think people are attracting to illustration," Christie said. "I don't dumb it down, and it is sophisticated. I like the balance of academic and putting your own self into what you are doing. When I go to schools, I try and link things in history that children would not know. Everything is interconnected especially other stories in history that may have been forgotten."

The public is encouraged to stop by The Center in Ketchum during gallery hours to watch Christie in his mural painting progress from Thursday, March 22, through Saturday, March 24.

For more information, call The Sun Valley Center for the Arts at 726-9491 or visit sunvalleycenter.org.




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