This past Saturday, on Cinco de Mayo, we visited the Shaffer Fine Art Gallery in the heart of downtown Portland to observe The Secrets of the Deep Exhibition. It is the first-ever comprehensive collection being exhibited in the city of the nearly seventy year artistic legacy of Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known to the world as Dr. Seuss. More than fifty pieces, limited edition reproductions taken from his original works, from The Art of Dr. Seuss and the new retrospective book Secrets of the Deep, are being represented at the gallery.
Seuss was a master when it came to crafting fantastic worlds, poetic fables with morals and symbolism cleverly embedded within them. He is such a fixture in popular culture, his books are such canons, you forget he was also an accomplished artist, removed from the storytelling. Looking over the collection of prints and sculptures at the gallery I was reminded of what a prolific artist the man was. The art and imagery, once isolated from the context of his children stories, take on a life of their own. The painting or drawing become objet d’art and objects to be desired. One also recognizes his range, from the droopy and floppy characters to the surreal and psychedelic imagery.
At the exhibition, I briefly spoke with Jeff Schuffman from Chase Art Companies, a representative of The Art of Dr. Seuss. You can read the interview below.
If you are in the neighborhood, while they are still there, I urge you to check out this collection at Shaffer Fine Art. Something may catch your eye and you possibly might even leave with a rare piece for yourself or for a loved one. I recommend the limited edition retrospective book, it is an appealing, comprehensive compendium. In fact, my good friend acquired a fine piece from Horton Hears a Who! when we were there. Her print of the gorgeous burnt orange, Tiffany Blue and cyan composition is accented with a snippet/title that reads:
They’ve proved they are persons, no matter how small!
The piece is going to hang in the newly-minted attorney’s office. Pretty apropos and poignant, methinks.
Secrets of the Deep: The Lost, Forgotten and Hidden Works of Theodor Seuss Geisel
May 3 – May 26, 2012
Shaffer Fine Art Gallery
308 SW First Avenue
Portland, Oregon 97230
TONY TRINH: How did this show come about?
JEFF SCHUFFMAN: Well this show is called The Secrets of the Deep which is The Lost, Hidden and Forgotten Works of Theodor Seuss Geisel. Most people know him as Dr. Seuss who wrote forty-four books over the course of his lifetime but what this exhibition focuses more so on are limited edition reproductions of his paintings and sculptures that he did throughout his creative lifetime.
TT: Can you talk to me about, you know, the rarity of these editions? I was looking at it like they were…I am under the impression that serigraphs are kind of the most…not only highly coveted but also the upper-tier of reproductions of (original) artwork.
JS: Well, they really are. And especially when it comes down to Seuss’ works because there are no originals available on the marketplace through auction houses, etc. They’re all held within archive museums and in the collection of the estate. The only way people have an opportunity to collect and acquire the works or even see the work are through galleries that host exhibitions like this. The serigraph in a hand-pulled process is probably one of the finest arts of reproductions that you can find because every color is individually screen-printed over one another so you get a little bit of a dimensionality and texture.
TT: You have different layers and a proper depiction of the actual image that’s scanned.
JS: Exactly. Uh huh, exactly.
TT: Yeah, they’re very intricate pieces. What’s the process of garnering…? First of all, what medium did he mostly work in?
JS: You know he worked in a variety of mediums, quite honestly. He would do either some in pen-and-ink or gouache on board, oil on canvas or paper, watercolor on paper. So he dabbled in a lot of different mediums as well as a variety of different art themes and styles. I mean, I think he would definitely be seen as a surrealist…
TT: I see that.
JS: …in terms of taking what’s real and putting his own slant to it and his interpretation. But Seuss was a self-taught artist and never went to art school. He just really…he might’ve borrowed some different styles and dabbled in a few different things but when you look at the imagery he’s trying to capture…
TT: Some people might say that he was the father or a precursor of the Lowbrow art movement of self-taught artists.
TT: (laughs) I like that!
JS: …Dr. Seuss is sort of the godfather of the Lowbrow art scene.
TT: You mentioned his range and this kind of spectrum and the media he worked with…
TT: What can you say about the spectrum of what’s represented here at the Shaffer Fine Art Gallery?
JS: Great question. What’s represented here are some examples of some early advertising work that he did in the 1930s all the way through his final book that he did in 1990, and paintings and sculptures, everywhere in between.
TT: Awesome. Thank you for talking with me, Jeff. That was great.
JS: My pleasure.
Photography by Curtis Gregory Perry