The Memory of an Elephant… House.

Elephant House 2014

Hello everyone,

For our introductory blog post, I wish to introduce one of our very own here at the JCBA, William Landis, as he offers his thoughts on one of our proudest collections. The works of Edward Gorey are exemplary of the eloquence and subtlety with which a true illustrator might communicate an idea, as William here describes…….

I am writing this morning from the Jaffe Center of Book Arts to relate to you my experience with the artwork of a remarkably talented fellow by the name of Edward Gorey. If I were to tell you that my life would most likely be drastically different if I hadn’t happened across a few of his thoroughly unique drawings, I would be telling you the truth.

Five years ago, I was brought to the Jaffe Center for Book Arts by my girlfriend of six months (now fiancée), to see a collection of photographs called Elephant House. I was certain that if she was showing this to me it would be interesting, but I didn’t know anything about Elephant House, or its notable inhabitant, one Edward Gorey.

Mister Gorey, I learned, was an author, poet, and most importantly to me, an illustrator. I fell immediately and madly in love with his drawings: dark, often macabre, but never without a brilliant sense of humor. Whether it was the Gashlycrumb Tinies, lightheartedly documenting a great number of ways to leave off at your current age (arranged in alphabetical order, naturally), or The Doubtful Guest, a story of a creature that would “carry off objects of which it grew fond, and protect them by dropping them into the pond,” Gorey’s short stories and illustrations quickly found their way into my heart.

It was these stories and drawings that, in fact, inspired me to pick up a pen and begin drawing. I had not done so in years, but I was moved to create. It was refreshing. It was cleansing. It had been missing from my life, and I took to it well. So well, in fact, that after a few years, I found myself back in college at twenty seven, pursuing my bachelors degree in painting.

Now, in my junior year, I work at the Jaffe Center, and when I find myself wading through life and the weight of my classes, I still return to Mister Gorey as a welcomed escape from normalcy. These books, drawings and photographs, which through January will be once again on display in the Jaffe Center as the first of the retrospective exhibitions celebrating the center’s fifteenth anniversary, are simultaneously both bizarre and lovely, and certainly worth seeing. You may fall in love with them yourself, but please be careful not to become so fond that you let yourself drop them into the pond.

Wm. J. Landis

What a heartening and thoughtful story I found this to be. Will has a unique gift in his depth of perception, and we’re very grateful that he’s had the kindness to share it with us. By reviving the Elephant House exhibition, JCBA hopes others might proceed to delve deeper and not just skim the surface of what is possible in the artistic endeavor!


AJ Signature


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