While the world has been abuzz with reports from the Iowa Caucuses this week, I found the most exciting piece of news to be the discovery of a “new” painting (dated 1500-1510) attributed to Hieronymus Bosch. The painting had been in storage in a Kansas City Missouri museum and researchers came upon it as part of an effort to catalog and identify all his work before the 500th anniversary of his death in 1516. Bosch was an early Renaissance master known for his other-worldly figures and surrealism. The mind of Bosch was original, diabolical, and absolutely genius. Bosch was the original surrealist – predating Salvador Dali by 400 years. The newly attributed painting is called “The Temptation of St. Anthony,” and features the Saint filling a water pitcher at the edge of a creek.
What caught my attention was the detail of a small metal funnel – a surreal, swashbuckling character on the opposing bank. I had seen this before – or at least, something more than a little evocative of that image.
Despite years of art school followed by my long professional career as an illustrator, it became clear to me one of the biggest lessons I learned was from my father. He started his career in scientific instrumentation by doing research and development at Oak Ridge Tennessee, fabricating research instruments for the making of the Atom Bomb.
I had no idea my book’s first stop would be at Panther Valley High School–a school 10 miles from my home in Jim Thorpe, PA. It was the quintessential “There’s no place like home” Wizard of Oz moment. Seemingly out of the blue, I became part of the Allentown Art Museum’s Artist in Residence program, funded by the Pennsylvania Council of the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s educational department invited Victor to teach a class based on the making of Daedal Doodle and its alliterations such as Appreceptive Achatina, Bifoliated Bonito, and Caoutchouidal Chelonia. This class started by sourcing words not from the dictionary, but from the Museum’s Oceania Galleries, where the museum displays the artifacts of Polynesia, New Britain, Australia and New Guinea.
Meet Victor Stabin in his studio through this video portrayal of his relationship with The Book. Not the Bible. The dictionary. Learn how he stumbled upon the words and images in the defining moment that gave rise to his award-winning book, Daedal Doodle.
John F. Kennedy said “Artists do what they do and let the chips fall where they may.” A good moment is when I run into someone in the gallery who gets it from top to bottom. The best of these chips-falling-into-place moments came in the fall of 2009 when I met a Mr. X in my graphics gallery.
In March 2011, the Allentown Art Museum contacted Victor to serve as a regional artist for a teaching residency at a local High School, funded by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The anthracite region of Pennsylvania is rich with skilled craftsmen, but has historically not provided strong support for the arts. But, Victor’s experience with the enthusiastic students of Panther Valley High School gave rise to Victors “Aha!” moment and the Daedal Doodle-inspired accidental curriculum.
The book idea was a simple assignment, look up words that lent themselves to narratives. I combed through 8,000 pages of various dictionaries, looking for alliterative couplets that eventually became my wacky revue of improbable characters. Love for my daughter, for words and for drawing propelled me through this astonishing maze of implausible alliterative combinations.
We evolved as creatures deeply enmeshed with the intricacies of nature, and still have this affinity with nature ingrained in our genotype today. There are scientific accounts of human and other species interrelations that read more like fables than reality. The more I read the more I’ve seen the connection to the work I am doing. To date this is the easiest and most personal connection I have had with my work. It seems only natural to paint my family in the context of this beautiful mythically iconic creature, the turtle.