As a child, I spent a lot of time curled up with a book, typically one with captivating illustrations that would pull me into the fictional or symbolic world of the story. I preferred books in which the main characters were plants and animals, and I took that new information and inspiration outside to experience and observe nature firsthand. This exploration of nature through literature has stayed with me throughout my life. What started with Eric Carle’s picture books “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” or “The Tiny Seed” led way to the likes of “Stella Luna”, by Jannel Cannon, an exquisitely painted story about a young fruit bat. Now, even as an adult my preferred reading tends to be non-fiction books with a nature-connection, like Sy Montgomery’s “Soul of an Octopus”. With this consistent consumption of nature-based stories, it is probably unsurprising that life’s path eventually led me to working at an arboretum.
Janell Cannon's Stellaluna, a book that launched my interest in the environment from an early age
I do believe it was those initial picture books that set the foundation, cultivating a deep empathy for living things and a curiosity for the interconnected-ness of natural world. With images that pulled me into illustrative worlds where I met bats, bugs, and plants, children’s books set up a foundation for inquisitive learning about how animals relate to one another, and to people, and how I could be a better steward for those creatures.
That is why I am so excited about our upcoming art exhibition in the Wisner House Gallery at Reeves-Reed Arboretum. Imaginature: Children’s Book Art, features the works of Margaret Peot and Giselle Potter, two NY- based, award-winning author/illustrators, and celebrates the timeless impact of children’s book illustration. Margaret Peot is the author/illustrator of books like “At Night” which follows several nocturnal animals on their evening journeys through the forest. In this exhibition, she will showcase a collection of Woodcut prints depicting animals in surreal settings that represent concepts like hibernation and metamorphosis.
Life Cycle of the Butterfly, Woodcut Print by Margaret Peot
Giselle Potter, who has illustrated books like Mara Rockliff's “Try It! How Frieda Caplan Changed the Way We Eat", and her self-authored book “Tell me What to Dream About”, uses bold strokes of watercolor and ink to create worlds with lush environments that will fascinate viewers. Each artist’s body of works features natural motifs, perfectly complementing the arboretum setting. However, these illustrations also tip into fantastical worlds, bringing the viewer back to a childlike sense of wonder and curiosity. I hope you’ll visit us to see this amazing work in person- the show will be on view to the public beginning on February 7th. Imaginature: Children’s Book Art shows us that, despite the popular saying, when the journey it takes you on is this inspired, sometimes you really can judge a book by its cover.
Flower Camo, A watercolor illustration by Giselle Potter
Imaginature: Children’s Book Art is on view beginning February 7 through May 14, 2023. Gallery Hours are Tuesday - Sunday 10 AM – 4 PM except when closed for private events. Click here to confirm gallery hours.
All works are for sale, and the artists will generously donate 30% of each sale back to the Arboretum. Several books by each author will also be available for purchase at the Arboretum. The public is also invited to meet Peot and Potter at the upcoming Artist Reception on Saturday, February 11, from 2-3:30 p.m. This event is free and open to the public. Registration is recommended but not required. You can click here to register.
Questions about this exhibition? Call 908-273-8787 ext. 1010 or email email@example.com.
You can learn more about each author/illustrator, and their available books, at their respective websites: https://www.margaretpeot.com/ and https://www.gisellepotter.com/