Society of Illustrators show emphasizes vast talent in self-portraits

Release Date: October 6, 2009

PLAINVIEW – The members of the Society of Illustrators are a varied group, ranging from those who prefer the realism of pastel and watercolor paintings to those who work more graphically with mixed media and the use of text in their pieces.

Regardless of their style, the illustrators bring their talents to the table for a unique exhibit on display at the Abraham Art Gallery at Wayland Baptist University through Nov. 23.

Titled “You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby,” the show features 90-plus “self-portraits” done in each illustrator’s signature artistic style, depicting themselves as young children. Some chose a traditional artistic style, while others a more modern design with commentary built in to reflect childhood influences.

One such piece is a pen and ink and collage piece by Joe Ciardiello, taking on a very western feel with the Lone Ranger, Howdy Doody and other characters.

“Born in 1953, I’m part of the very first generation to grow up with television,” Ciardiello wrote. “TV had an incredible impact on my young life… especially the cowboys.”

Others such as Jack Unruh made a statement to their current state of mind, related to their childhood experiences with religion, siblings, education and other experiences.

“I never wanted to grow up, just get older,” Unruh included at the bottom of his portrait. “And I really wanted better toys.”

Included in the exhibition are artists like James Bennett, whose conceptual, humorous illustrations have been included in the New York Times, Sports Illustrated and Mad Magazine among others; Doreen Minuto, whose classic-style paintings typically adorn the covers of romance novels; Mitchell Hooks, a frequent illustrator of book covers, movie posters and advertising campaigns; Leslie Cober-Gentry, a long-time illustrator of books, magazines and corporate work who now teaches design; and Victor Juhasz, a regular contributor to Golf magazine and the New York Observer with his caricatures and illustrations.

“Most of the portraits are featured with a photo of the adult illustrators, many of whom are icons of the industry, and include their personal comments about themselves and their artwork,” said Dr. Candace Keller, curator for the Abraham Gallery and professor of art. “Illustrators always design their works to convey a message, but to have a written comment from the artists makes them even more interesting.”

The society was founded in 1901 by nine artists with aims of promoting and celebrating illustrative artwork. The group held monthly meetings and regular exhibitions of its work, and members regularly provided their talent for the U.S. government during war eras for posters and other materials, such as the famous “I want you” poster with Uncle Sam by James Montgomery Flagg. Members began working with the U.S. Air Force in 1954 to document its activities and that relationship continues today.

The 1950s also saw the development of a scholarship fund to assist aspiring young artists, and the Museum of American Illustration was opened in 1981. In 2001, as part of the society’s centennial, they released a series of stamps in partnership with the U.S. Postal Service, and they held a special exhibit honoring the heroes of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The Abraham Gallery exhibit is free and open to the public during regular gallery hours: 10-5 Monday through Thursday, 10-4 Friday and 2-5 Saturday. For more information, contact the gallery at (806) 291-3710.