A Dinosaur Love Affair

By: Catie Anderson, curator of education on February 15th, 2012

Did you go through a dinosaur phase as a kid? Or, like me, did you never grow out of it? Visitors to the Woodson Art Museum are finding their love of dinosaurs to be stronger than ever. The key to re-igniting this passion for our long-extinct love interests is James Gurney’s Dinotopia book series.

As the author and illustrator, Gurney weaves together adventure, ancient civilizations, ethical standards, cultural traditions, and of course, dinosaurs. The series follows a father and son as they travel throughout the vast geography and societies of the island of Dinotopia making new friends, even finding first love. The highly detailed and realistic oil paintings invite visitors into lush green forests, arid deserts, and bustling urban landscapes all filled with dinosaurs and their human companions. The characters and stories of Dinotopia are enchanting, but the illustrations truly are inspiring and memorable. One visitor over the weekend shared her fond memories of the series:

“Thank you so much for bringing the Dinotopia exhibit to the museum. These books were my life as a child. Seeing the art in person brought back so many emotions that I cried several times. I’ll be back to meet the artist.”

In the galleries you can overhear young paleontologists rambling off the identifications of dinosaurs depicted by Gurney, and you know their love for these prehistoric stars is at an all time high. Also heard are those quiet mutterings of adults speaking to themselves, trying to remember the names of the dinosaurs pictured.

Art Park, the Museum’s interactive family gallery, turned ten on Saturday and the birthday was celebrated by hundreds of visitors, volunteers, and education staff. Many came as dinosaur enthusiasts and left as honorary citizens of Dinotopia. Dino-ramas encouraged creative habitat construction; travel journals were filled with stickers, drawings, and coded messages in the Dinotopian written alphabet. Stepping into the shoes of a dinosaur was another way to leave a coded message during the birthday party. Some visitors slipped on a pair of Crocs™ with a dinosaur footprint stamp adhered to the bottom and literally stamped out their names and notes onto paper.

While the exhibition does have immediate appeal to younger visitors, adults can enjoy a sociocultural survey of dinosaur history in the Museum’s Art History 101 lecture series. My second and final presentation of “Dinosaurs in the Museum: Reconstruction, Restoration, and Interpretation” will be offered to the public today, 12:15 – 1 pm. Bring a bagged lunch, if you like, and learn about how museums and the American public have interacted with dinosaurs in academic and entertainment settings.

Whether your love of dinosaurs is undiscovered, newfound, or an everlasting flame, we hope you join us at the Museum for programs complementing Dinotopia: The Fantastical Art of James Gurney.

Happy Valentine’s Day from the Woodson Art Museum!

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