Not just for children: fairy tale artwork at Ringling College's Selby Gallery

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Until Dec. 9, 2011, Selby Gallery at Ringling College of Art and Design will be hosting a unique exhibit on artwork and illustrations from published fairy tale books from around the world. At the core of this project is the well-established curator Sylvia Nissley, who is visiting Sarasota from northern California.

Nissley is distinguishable from other curators for her unusual choice of artistic media. For the past twenty years, she has focused primarily on children’s story book illustrations. Married to an illustrator, she has first-hand exposure to illustrating which, coupled with her love of reading fairy tales to her young daughter, inspired her to undertake this exhibition. Her efforts have led her all around the country, presenting original productions of artwork featured in many familiar fairy tale books.

“This exhibit has toured the country for three years and it’s had a little extension,” Nissley said. “This is the 11th venue, so it’s really been on the road a long time.”

Highlighting fairy tale artwork as an exhibit has apparently succeeded in appealing to audiences across the U.S. According to Nissley, fairy tales have a “universal appeal.” The pieces of artwork featuring international fairy tales had uncanny similarities, such as a story similar to “Little Red Riding Hood originating from China. Even the story of Cinderella has as few as 300 (and as many as 500) versions from nearly every continent. The differences are noticeable, but they still help carry along the respective stories.

“In Korea, you find a Cinderella but there isn’t a fairy godmother – there’s a magical fish who helps Cinderella with her plight,” Nissley explained.

Not only are fairy tales universal, but they are also quite ancient. Many of them hold roots in more antiquated oral traditions, and in regions that didn’t feature such fairy tale celebrities as Hans Christian Andersen or the Brothers Grimm.

“A lot of these folk tales started in Egypt, China and India, probably as an offshoot of the myths of the Vedas in Indian literature,” Nissley said.

Featuring a wide variety of artists, such as Demi, Jim LaMarche, Kinuko Y. Craft, Marilee Heyer and Susan Paradis, the gallery will be open Monday through Saturday (except Tuesday) from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. The potential reactions of visitors can vary according to interest, artist and prior exposure to fairy tales.

“I think different visitors will take away different things,” Nissley said. “Some visitors will just marvel at the ability of these artists to illustrate these tales that they’re familiar with. I expect a response to the aesthetics – I’ve chosen each piece carefully according to my sort of feeling for aesthetics and what I would like to show.”

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