I don’t think it is news to any My Little Bookcase reader that I am a huge fan of Jeannie Baker. I have been ever since I was in Grade 4 when the teacher read Where the Forest Meets the Sea as part of our unit on endangered environments.
I was in a bit of a panic this week because all of a sudden her latest exhibition in Melbourne was coming to a close. This travelling exhibition features the actual collages used for the illustrations of her latest book, Mirror.
I was hoping to get there on my own. Mainly so I could take my time and truly appreciate the work of Jeannie Baker.
It’s not that I didn’t want my daughter with me or that I didn’t want her to experience a unique exhibition. It’s simply that my teaching experience has enabled me to develop the foresight needed to avoid situations that might cause boredom or dare I say, a tantrum.
As circumstances have it, it reached a point where I was faced with a choice: take my daughter with me to the exhibition or miss out!
Needless to say, my daughter and I embarked on a day trip to the city. We arrived at the Melbourne Museum at 10am, and made our way directly to the exhibition. We were alone. Perfect!
The exhibition is simple. Jeannie’s artworks are displayed on white walls. The exhibition doesn’t need anything else. Children are not only welcome but are invited to the exhibition. Platforms are installed to allow them to get up close and personal with the artwork.
As we walked into the exhibition and I realised we were alone I was again confronted with a decision: Do I leave my newly walking daughter in the pram where she is constrained but bored? Or do I take her out to enjoy the artwork with me but risk her getting excited by the large, empty and new environment.
Although only 19 months old, I decided that I wouldn’t have another opportunity to bring her back and as a Jeannie-fan-in-bloom it wouldn’t be fair to deprive her.
She was very impressed with the first two collages and concentrated on them for some time, but then she became quite excited by the large space she could explore. Off she went on her own to explore the room. Every now and then she independently climbed the platform, looked at a collage and made a comment like ‘ooh doggy’ or ‘car go drive’. She finally settled herself down in the centre of the room with a copy of Mirror on her lap. Lovely!
As for me, I’m thankful I didn’t miss out on this exhibition. Seeing Jeannie Baker’s collages through her picture books is one thing, but witnessing the detail and intricacies in the actual collages is something else. Jeannie Baker truly is a master of creating the most intricate and textural art using a range of materials, both natural and artificial. Without giving too much away, my favourite element was the bags of spices portrayed in a Moroccan market place.
Scroll to the end of this article for future exhibition dates and venues.
About the book.
Author and Illustrator: Jeannie Baker
Publisher: Walker Books Ltd, November 2010
Mirror is a wordless book. The only words we read are in Jeannie Baker’s author note explaining that two families living on different sides of the world can live so differently but at the same time be so alike.
The book is essentially two stories in one. It has been constructed cleverly allowing you to explore the images and the journeys of two families simultaneously, hence the title of the book, Mirror.
Mirror explores the ins and outs of daily life within families, from the morning routine to family responsibilities. It is a universal story and unfilled with words, which makes it an accessible story to any family, of any culture and of any language.
This is one special book that every family should have on their bookcase.
Mirror is available for purchase online: The Book Depository I Borders I Booktopia
Future Dates and Venues for Mirror: Travelling Exhibition
Botanic Gardens of Adelaide: 18th March – 13th May 2011
Ipswich City Art Gallery: 25th June – 11th October 2011
Newcastle Regional Library, Lovett Gallery: 4th November 2011 – 15th January 2012
Canberra Museum and Gallery: 3rd February – 20th May 2012
State Library of West Australia: 5th July – 28th September 2012
Blacktown Arts Centre: November 2012 – January 2013