Does this picture look familiar?
I recognize it, but I didn’t know the origins of it until last Saturday when I went to the Jewish Museum to view their exhibit titled “The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats“.
Maybe it was that I went to visit the exhibit on the day it snowed here in New York City, but the exhibit was the perfect pick-me-up for the weekend. I can still see the warm colors and feel the playful and positive energy it emanates.
I learned so much about Ezra Jack Keats, like how he grew up poor in East New York. I grew up in East New York between the ages of birth and 11. It is needless to say that I developed an immediate like for him just knowing that we both had similar beginnings.
However, that’s not when I truly fell in love with Mr. Keats and his work. No, it was after I read the following statement in one of the descriptions: “Asked once for “the white edition of The Snowy Day , he answered: ‘Like life, there is only one edition.'”
See, Mr. Keats, wrote and illustrated The Snowy Day and it was published in 1962, during the Civil Rights Movement. It came out to great criticism and acclaim as it shared the story of a young African-American boy experiencing his first snow fall. It is a wonderful story of magic and wonderment and I read it completely awed by the illustrations and Mr. Keats’s ability to tell a story so simply and beautifully. Honestly, I felt a bit jealous of parents who get to read his books to their children every night.
I also enjoyed the historical representation they allotted to further share Keats’s own history and that of the Civil Rights Movement. The letters, photos and other materials were not the only way either, it was the colors in his work and the combinations of collage, paint, and pencil. His ability to work with these materials showed his inclination to share a more truthful world-one he knew well from his youth and that influenced him completely.
I don’t have to tell you how much I was personally inspired by viewing and reading his work. Every thing on display just popped out to me and made me feel more alive. It made me want to sketch and photograph NYC streets again. It made me realize that when people tell me that I’m crazy for trying to design three layer business cards that they are wrong – using all materials that inspire you to tell a story is a matter of creation. In the end, it made me want to design and share the same joy through my art.
I don’t have much more to say except you should all rush out to see the exhibit before it closes this weekend on January 29th. If you can’t make it (because you live out-of-town), then you should view the exhibit page on their website. There is a video with a curator explaining the exhibit. Totally worth checking out.
Oh, and if you have small kids, buy a copy of the book, or check it out of your local library.