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Sunday, Dec. 23, 2012

Whimsy from Wisconsin

Aaron Boyd: children’s art at the Allis

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This holiday season, the Charles Allis Art Museum offers a stunning collection of the paintings of children’s illustrator, Aaron Boyd. A Milwaukee native and 1993 MIAD graduate, Boyd has created numerous illustrations for children’s magazines, games and books. The Allis’ unique house-museum gallery space features a wide assortment of his original watercolors, as well as a pop-up book newly inducted into the Smithsonian Rare Books Collections.

Some of the paintings stand alone thematically, such as E is for Ella and Dizzy, jazz tributes so full of movement and immediacy that one can almost hear faint strains of music while standing in front of them. To be found in all of Boyd’s paintings are deeply saturated colors with a strong interest in graphic design elements (such as contrast and pattern) and seemingly endless hidden details to discover with your child.

Multicultural themes play a strong role in Boyd’s work as well, evident in his contributions to books with settings ranging from India and Africa, to Japan and the U.S. He also shows tremendous facility and sensitivity in conveying human emotion. The ostracized central figure in Alone (from the book, Babu’s Song) has a face so poignantly sad and realistic it will break your heart.

Many of the artist’s works feature a large component of fantasy, as in Langston Hughes Spring, in which a toad and mouse pole down a river using twigs and riding in gondolas made from leaves. The artist also has a penchant for combining familiar and realistically rendered elements in unexpected ways. Such is the case in Sanctuary, in which a small boy rides on the back of a giant sea turtle through a colorful sky populated by whales.

The perfect marriage of verisimilitude and whimsy, Boyd’s work is sure to delight and inspire viewers of all ages.

“Wisconsin’s Own: Aaron Boyd” runs through Jan. 13, 2013 at the Charles Allis Art Museum, 1801 N. Prospect Ave.