Rare Lynda Barry exhibit opens: Gallery Night at Madison Children’s Museum

by | Sep 29, 2015 | 0 comments

Gallery Night opens Drawing Fast and Slow: The Compbook Art of Lynda Barry at Madison Children’s Museum
Also opening: Finn Jackson: Farmyard Friends and one evening of fantastic, whimsical play – complementing the Lynda Barry exhibit opening — in the Funkyard, from Angela Richardson. Exhibits run through January of 2016

Madison Children’s Museum opens Drawing Fast and Slow: The Compbook Art of Lynda Barry on October 2, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Admission to the entire museum is free on that evening as part of Gallery Night. The Community Concourse, where the exhibit is housed, is always free to visit. Barry will attend the opening, and copies of three of her books will be available for purchase.

Over a career that includes authoring 17 books over 35 years, this is only the fourth exhibition of Lynda Barry’s work, and the first outside of New York.

At the core of the exhibit are 20 composition books featuring Barry’s sketches and writing. These “compbooks” — part-diary, part-sketchbook — have never been shared publicly, so this provides a rare glimpse into the artist’s life and how events, musings, and memory become art. The compbooks, in cases, are each open to a spread of pages, which Barry will turn from time to time, so each visit to the exhibit will be different.

Lynda Barry was known for many years as the author of the nationally syndicated “Ernie Pook’s Comeek,” featuring Marlys and Freddy. In Madison, she’s more recently gained attention for the classes she teaches on drawing, writing and the creative process at UW-Madison, working out of the UW Art Department and the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery.

“Lynda’s way of inspiring people of all ages to use their creative capacities, to play and let their hands lead them, is very much at the heart of what we do at Madison Children’s Museum. She is a perfect fit,” says Brenda Baker, the museum’s director of exhibits. “We’re thrilled to share her work and spark others to reclaim drawing and writing as their natural right.”

The exhibit is the result of a partnership between Barry and museum exhibits staff, who have created an interactive gallery of art and activities out of the artist’s work and methods for unlocking the creative process.

A giant compbook anchors the exhibit and allows visitors to pose for photos through holes that bring them right into the artwork. A “magnetic poetry” style area asks visitors to choose words and images and arrange them to create a story. People are urged to share something of themselves at the Magic Cephalapod Writing Station. Spinning the Chance Wheel determines the subject of a quick drawing exercise. These exercises will have visitors contributing many sketches and brief stories, which Barry’s graduate students will collect on Saturdays, adding words to the pictures and pictures to the words in new, collaborative compbooks, which will then be displayed.

Barry will also visit the museum on a weekly basis, drawing and writing with children. .

The Sidewalk Surprise gallery window, viewable from Hamilton St., will display a compbook-page quilt, featuring copies of pages selected by Barry.

A “Hole in the Wall” scene will usher in the first iteration of a new MCM exhibit offering as it brings Barry’s characters to life in three dimensions. Hole in the Wall exhibits will be located throughout the museum, with only a small spyglass to announce the presence of a scene built into a wall or exhibit. A number are planned, and the first one will be launched with the Barry exhibit.

Thought-provoking and inspiring quotes from the artist, like the one that follows, are peppered throughout the exhibit. The whole experience will likely leave people, no matter their age, wanting to draw.

“I believe making lines and shapes and coloring them in can still help us in the way it helped us when we were kids. When we used paper as if it were a place, rather than a thing. A place where something alive can happen through motion. The motion of our bare hands—the original digital devices; wireless, biofueled, completely ours. Drawing is one of our oldest ways of working things out.”

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