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Guaranteed to Please The Gut, Cerebral Blastoffs On The Loose!

Courtesy of Fingerhut, The Secret Art of Dr. Seuss!

By Ryan Wirick

“Where? When? Who? How?”
asked the What.

Why, it’s not a chocolate moose,
or a zombie on a noose,
or a king who’s a nut
with a couple screws loose!

It’s art!
But not art you can shake off,
or peel off, or switch off outside ...
or write off, or log off,
or sleep off tonight.

It’s not art where you wish
you saw a bad movie instead,
or stayed home
with reality TV in bed.

... or scooping the litter box,
or getting locked in a room,
or selling off your stocks
before an artificial boom.

You see, it’s far more profound
than all that fun stuff!
On display now
for those on the snoop.

Those feeling down.
Those feeling up.
Those willing to bound
their thoughts for a loop!

For it’s sure to astound,
unchain and seduce,
like a proving ground
for the brain’s misuse!

In fact,
it’s funny and thinky
and feely enough
to dumbfound the pants
off Old Mother Goose!

... a once secret affection
no one sought out to roam.
No one knew of the collection
that he kept in his home.

Except of course for his wife
who reasoned and prayed:
“The whole web of life
should feel what you’ve made! ..."

No, it’s nothing to scoff!
No suspicious knockoffs!
Only nonsensical, irrational,
cerebral blastoffs!

That you watch takeoff
and explode in your mind!
... as you aimlessly pivot,
arrive and unwind
outside an exhibit
entitled Hat’s Off ...

“Who else could these be by,
and for What? And for Why?”

“Why not and what not!” decreed the How.
“Now come on inside and take a bow!”

For the Why behind the What
Is the How behind The Whos
At the gallery known as Fingerhut,
It’s the art of Dr. Seuss!*

*This is not meant to be a Dr. Seuss parody. Although Seuss often invented words to fit a perfect (or near perfect) rhyme scheme, he rarely used half-rhymes to get the job done, and as far as I know never to the extent that I have here.

He was far more clever, that much is clear! Lest we forget Seuss’s views in Oh The Places You’ll Go: “You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”

Click here to watch a video from the exhibit's opening night, shot and edited by Ryan Wirick.

And now for an interview with Fingerhut Gallery director Marie Covell! . . .

Ryan: What about Dr. Seuss’s artwork has most surprised you?

Marie: “I was surprised that in addition to being an author he was also an artist. I had always thought of Dr. Seuss as a writer/author and did not know he illustrated his books. I was even more surprised that he spent so much of his free time painting for pure enjoyment. He was first and foremost an artist. Privately he painted in his studio, located at his home in La Jolla, but seldom shared his art with anyone. I guess that’s why they call it ‘The Secret Art of Dr. Seuss.’ I had the opportunity to view a National Geographic magazine from 1979 that featured Dr. Seuss’s home. They photographed his art hanging on the walls throughout his house. How amazing to see it before the reproductions were created. He created them for his own pleasure. Some of the best ones were done many years before a book was ever written. It was Audrey, his wife, who wanted to show them in fine art galleries. He painted hundreds of works of art that are now being seen for the first time. Everyday at the gallery someone says, ‘I never knew Dr. Seuss was an artist.’ And of course I say, ‘I understand.’”

What will people take away from the “Hats Off to Dr. Seuss!” exhibit?

“The Hats off exhibit will underscore Ted’s ability to take the ordinary to a whole new level. His art did that. Just like the animal parts he turned into ‘unorthodox taxidermy,’ the Hats Off exhibit shows that crazy, wacky world in which Dr. Seuss lived.”

Obviously the Seuss exhibit represents a small portion of the artwork shown at Fingerhut. Is there a common thread among all of the represented artists, Seuss included?

The art of Dr. Seuss makes people happy. It makes you smile. I would like to think that all of the art at Fingerhut makes you feel better or in someway elevates the spirit. Dr. Seuss does this by taking us back to a seemingly simpler time . . . happy moments that make our hearts a little lighter.

Did you read Dr. Seuss as a kid?

My favorite grade school teacher of all time was Ms. French. She made books exciting. She introduced me to The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins, my first Dr. Seuss book. She also encouraged my interest in art by taking me to the Indianapolis Children’s Museum. Just the two of us—something that would probably not happen today. When I think of Dr. Seuss, or art, I think of Ms. French. I am sharing this story as it is my belief that every one who loves the books of Dr. Seuss has a special Dr. Seuss memory they cherish.

How, when, and why did you get involved with Fingerhut in Laguna Beach? What made you want to be a director of an art gallery?

I have had three different careers in my life. All three revolved around marketing, people development, and/or color and design. I am not sure if I found this position, or this position found me. I had stopped by the gallery to visit a friend that I had not seen in a long time. I had just returned to California after living in Boulder/Denver for seven years. My friend was not in, so I struck up a conversation with the now-retired director. After a long conversation he invited me to work with him at the gallery. To make a long story short, I said “yes,” and the rest is history.

As Gallery Director and President of Sales and Marketing, I get to utilize all of my past experiences from my other careers. It was as if everything came together perfectly. I love every aspect of the business, from choosing the art to selecting the perfect frame; from putting on the shows to working with the artists. I even enjoy the paperwork, although it seems to sometimes take on a life of its own. I have been here over 13 years. When I think about being here that long, it doesn’t seem real. Time has flown by.

Fingerhut Gallery has managed to stick around in Laguna for over a decade, something increasingly rare for art galleries. How do you see the art gallery industry adapting and evolving going into the future?

Our longevity is based on many things. We have wonderful art and a great location. I often say, “We have the best seat in the house.” We are incredibly fortunate to have our gallery in Laguna Beach and on the corner of Forest and PCH. There are very few cities in the country like Laguna. When you think of the combination of great weather, spectacular coastal access, wonderful restaurants, five-star hotels, the Pageant of the Masters, and both art festivals, you realize how lucky we all are to have an art gallery here.

All that said, I have watched galleries come and go and for many reasons. The economy has been hard on all galleries across the country. After a long five years of dog-paddling through this economy, we feel that we are lucky to have made it to the other side. Fortunately for all of us, things are getting better. The staff has been with me through it all. They are the real reason we are still here. Nothing matters more than a great staff who love what they are doing. In addition we have loyal, passionate art collectors who are like family. I know that sounds like a cliché, but that is the truth. I’ll be upstairs, working away at my desk, and all of a sudden I will hear a familiar voice and my heart lights up. I stop what I am doing and run downstairs for a hug. We are truly blessed to be here and doing what we do.

Going back to Dr. Seuss, do you have a personal favorite Dr. Seuss book?

It is hard to choose a favorite book, but if you put a gun to my head, I’d have to choose The Lorax. Dr. Seuss was so far ahead of his time when he wrote this book. The Lorax has inspired many generations to care about the environment. As Laguna locals, we get to see first-hand what happens when you abuse nature. Dr. Seuss understood that the future of the earth is in the hands of the children. The Lorax started a quiet revolution. Politically we can argue all day and night about climate change. Is it real? If it is, what causes it? One thing we can all agree on is the importance of clean air and water. We all understand that corporations can build healthy businesses while supporting people, or destroy the earth in the effort to make a buck. The Lorax reminds us that the hope for a cleaner environment is up to us and no one else. The future is in our hands. It is all about taking personal responsibility and stewardship.

Along those lines, what insight do you think Dr. Seuss might have about the state of the world today?

The world isn’t any different today. Our communication has just gotten better. We know about everything, true or false, the moment it happens, and on a global level. As always, I think that Dr. Seuss would choose to speak to the children. They are the great catalyst for change and hopefully the parents get the messages as they read the stories. The great truths he promoted through his books still apply today.

Such as?

Green Eggs and Ham encourages us not to take “no” for an answer. For if you persist, you will succeed. We can easily be overwhelmed with negative media or fall into fear, but if we remain steadfast and move forward, we can change the way people think, and the world in which we live. Oh The Places You’ll Go is a book that we wait too long to share with young people. We often give it to them when they leave school, but we should be reading it to our first graders. Children need to know early on that they may have to make tough choices, that bullies will always be there, but you have the power to survive, and you will be OK. In The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, the Grinch’s heart grew three times its size, so maybe there is hope for all the Grinches in today’s world ... but remember, the Grinch changed because someone saw the good in him.

So, the messages of Dr. Seuss still apply. Remember to be persistent, don’t give up, see the good in others (even when they are a little grinchy), be mindful of your choices, bad things happen but you will succeed, be responsible and care about the earth and the “earthlings.” Not bad advice for anyone ... at anytime.

Click here to watch a video from the exhibit's opening night, shot and edited by Ryan Wirick.

Hats Off To Dr. Seuss! runs through June 2 at Fingerhut Gallery, 210A Forest Ave., Laguna Beach, (949) 376-6410. For more information, click up the gallery website at fingerhutart.com.

Hours: Sunday - Wednesday, 10-6pm; Thursday - Saturday, 10-8pm. Open 7 days a week.

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