NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - Flying, jumping, crawling animals usually are not welcome inside an art museum. Unless, of course, they are pictures by an artist who invites you to look closely. “Bugs & Frogs & Toads! Oh, My! Original Children’s Book Illustrations by Nancy Winslow Parker,” which opened at the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers on July 5, does just that. The exhibition features more than 40 of Parker’s original drawings for the books “Bugs” (1987) and “Frogs, Toads, Lizards, and Salamanders” (1990). Some drawings are playful and humorous; others are scientifically instructive – but all of them pique the viewer’s interest about some of the most diverse species on our planet. On view through June 21, 2015, the works are featured in the Duvoisin Gallery, which is dedicated to the Zimmerli’s extensive collection of original artwork for children’s books.
“These drawings are a delightful introduction to a variety of insects and amphibians that exist in the natural world around us,” notes Marilyn Symmes, the museum’s Director of the Morse Research Center for Graphic Arts and Curator of Prints and Drawings. “Parker’s combination of storytelling and science informs us all – from beginning readers to nature enthusiasts of all ages – of the fragile ecological coexistence among all creatures great and small.”
Nancy Winslow Parker has been a successful children’s book illustrator and author since 1974. She coauthored “Bugs” and “Frogs, Toads, Lizards, and Salamanders” with Joan Richards Wright. In the books, a detailed illustration and amusing couplet introduce each creature, followed by an accurate scientific rendition and fascinating facts. Both publications include a cast of characters who encounter cicadas and centipedes, African Platannas and Eastern Spadefoot Toads, but never appear alarmed, indicating that our tiny neighbors in the wild should be investigated, not feared – or squashed. Parker, who spent a considerable amount of time researching her natural history subjects and how they fit into our world, still declares, “Bugs are important!”
Parker includes what may be many people’s favorite insect. “What twinkled its light in the twilight sky? A firefly.” The verse accompanies the image of two girls engaged in the popular summer activity of trying to catch lightning bugs (another acceptable name). While the habitats (fields, woods, backyards) and mating rituals (blinking) may not surprise readers, who knew that firefly larvae sometimes eat worms and snails? Parker also depicts perhaps our greatest summer enemy. “What left a bump when it bit Rita? A mosquito.” With some 2,500 species, they are found just about everywhere in the world.
“Ben hardly knew what to do when a Texas Toad fell out of his shoe.” And neither does his cat, which extends a paw to investigate the seemingly dancing frog. Learn about its paratoid gland, tubercles, and venter – and how a toad’s yawn begins the process of shedding its skin. Parker’s captivating illustration of the Western Skink resembles a snake with legs. Neutral in color, juveniles also have bright blue tails to detract attackers away from their vulnerable bodies. Though it may not be a widely known lizard, there are 600 species around the world, with 15 in the United States. The exhibition is full of fun facts like these, while revealing the skilled hand of the illustrator.
In the early 1970s, after working for two decades in sales and advertising in New York City, Nancy Winslow Parker decided to pursue a career as a writer and illustrator of children’s books. In 1974, she published her first book, “The Man with the Take-Apart Head.” Since then, Parker has produced fifty fiction and non-fiction books for children, most of them as author and illustrator. Ranking among the most successful are “Bugs” and “Frogs, Toads, Lizards, and Salamanders,” both published by Greenwillow Books, New York. Several of Parker’s books also have won awards: “Willy Bear” (1976) and “My Mom Travels a Lot” (1981) each received a Christopher Award; “Poofy Loves Company” (1980) was named an American Library Association Notable Book. Born, raised, and educated in Maplewood, New Jersey, Nancy Winslow Parker received her B.A. in Fine Arts from Mills College in California. She is a long-time resident of New York City and also spends time at the New Jersey Shore.
“Bugs & Frogs & Toads! Oh, My! Original Children’s Illustrations by Nancy Winslow Parker” is open to the public on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. To schedule a class or group tour Tuesday through Sunday, please contact the Education Department (email@example.com) at least two weeks in advance.
The exhibition was organized by Marilyn Symmes, Director of the Zimmerli’s Morse Research Center for Graphic Arts and Curator of Prints and Drawings, with Leeza Cinar, a Rutgers University undergraduate student assistant.
Upcoming children’s classes take inspiration from “Bugs & Frogs & Toads! Oh, My! Original Children’s Illustrations by Nancy Winslow Parker.” Summer Art Camp 2014 introduces “Chinese Crafts: Explore the World of Insects.” Offered the week of July 14, 7 to 10 year olds learn the art of Paper Folding and Chinese knots to create their own bugs. During the 2014-15 school year, Drawing Club for Children and Young People incorporates the scientific world. While exploring drawing techniques, students reference Parker’s drawings, as well as visit the Rutgers Geology Museum to examine its specimens from the natural world. Information about all classes is available at www.zimmerlimuseum.rutgers.edu/programs-events/workshops-classes.
ZIMMERLI ART MUSEUM|RUTGERS
The Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum houses more than 60,000 works of art, ranging from ancient to contemporary art. The permanent collection features particularly rich holdings in 19th-century French art; Russian art from icons to the avant-garde; Soviet nonconformist art from the Dodge Collection; and American art with notable holdings of prints. In addition, small groups of antiquities, old master paintings, as well as art inspired by Japan and original illustrations for children’s books, provide representative examples of the museum’s research and teaching message at Rutgers. Founded in 1966 to serve the campus and community, the Zimmerli is now one of the nation’s largest and most distinguished university-based art museums, located in a 70,000-square-foot building on the New Brunswick campus of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Established in 1766, Rutgers is America’s eighth oldest institution of higher learning and a premier public research university.
The Zimmerli’s operations, exhibitions, and programs are funded in part by Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, and income from the Avenir Foundation Endowment, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Endowment, and the Voorhees Family Endowment, among others. Additional support comes from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts; the Estate of Victoria J. Mastrobuono; and donors, members, and friends of the museum.
The Zimmerli Art Museum is located at 71 Hamilton Street at George Street on the College Avenue campus of Rutgers University in New Brunswick. The Zimmerli is a short walk from the NJ Transit train station in New Brunswick, midway between New York City and Philadelphia.
MUSEUM AND Z CAFÉ HOURS
Hours are Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m., and the first Wednesday of each month (except August), 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. The museum is closed Mondays, major holidays, and the month of August.
Z Café featuring the Food Architects is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with a variety of breakfast, lunch, and snack items. Z Café is closed during July and August.
Admission is $6 for adults; $5 for 65 and over; and free for museum members, children under 18, and Rutgers students, faculty, and staff (with ID). Admission is free on the first Sunday of every month. For more information, call 848.932.7237 or visit the museum’s website: www.zimmerlimuseum.rutgers.edu