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April 2, 2007

 

I Spy a colorful exhibit by artist Walter Wick

 

By Wesley Saxena

Remember those books you used to read during indoor recess or free time in elementary school? The ones with all the colorful pictures, full of hidden objects you try to find?

I SPY and more recently, Can You See What I See? books are very popular among kids and have been for over 10 years.

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The New Britain Museum of American Art in New Britain, Conn., recently showcased a very colorful exhibit all about I SPY, Can You See What I See? and other books by artist Walter Wick.

The genius behind these creations was born in Hartford, Conn., where he now has a studio.

Museum visitors were instantly overwhelmed by all the swirling colors and odd pictures that made up the temporary exhibit.

Next to the framed photographs or three-dimensional displays were explanations of how Wick created some of the photography effects – as in one photo where three mirrors were used to make it look like there was a whole army of toys and trinkets.

Chris Holl, 15, of Enfield, Conn., a student at the Metropolitan Learning Center in Bloomfield, Conn., visited Wick’s show.

Holl, who said he’s read the I SPY books since he was in second grade and is still working on I SPY Extreme Challenger, said Wick’s work is creative.

“He has a lot of patience,” said Holl’s 12-year-old sister, Elizabeth Holl. She said her favorite picture was Sky High, which she described as “the space robot thingy.”

Chris Holl said he met Jean Marzollo, the author of the I SPY poems. The I SPY books, he said, are “very interesting.”

His favorite photo in the museum exhibit, Holl said, was “the one with only three mirrors that seems to show tons of mirrors and animals.”

Some photos in the exhibit that Wick took were actually huge Rube Goldbergs, or complicated inventions designed to do simple tasks.

Wick’s Balloon Popper consisted of Tinkertoy cars, many dominoes and a whole bunch of other household items. The project took three weeks for Wick to complete, but when it was done, it worked perfectly and was entertaining to watch. A monitor at the museum show played a video of the machine in action.

A setup from the Once Upon a Time edition of Can You See What I See? was a huge, three-dimensional scene of Puss in Boots.

In the scene, the cat was jumping for joy at the gates of a castle. This scene was made to last, using materials like high-density foam, beads, metal and clay.

Wick digitally edited it as well.

Sky High was one of the largest displays in the exhibit. Used for the Dream Machine edition of Can You See What I See? depicts a futuristic city with huge skyscrapers and filled with flying cars. The most interesting thing was that Wick used only recycled items to build it. The display included lids from old plastic food containers, a funnel, packaging peanuts and even Chinese food take-out baskets.

It’s intriguing that most of the items in Wick’s pictures can be found in a recycling bin or a grandparent’s attic.

O Frabjous Mirrors!, published in Games magazine, has an Alice in Wonderland theme and an ingenious use of mirrors. It was the most mind-blowing photo in the exhibit.

Along with the displays showing scenes from his books, the exhibit also included some of Wick’s phenomenal photographs, including a magnified view of a snowflake showing all its rivets and intricate patterns.

 


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