Illustrator Gabi Swiatkowska recently traveled from her home in the French village of Bourg de Visa to New York City to promote her new book, Mary Cassatt: Extraordinary Impressionist Painter (Holt/Ottaviano, Oct.), written by Barbara Herkert, and to mount an exhibit of her work at the Brooklyn Public Library’s central branch. The exhibit opened October 1 and runs through January 24, 2016. Swiatkowska has illustrated nearly 20 books, including Queen for Wednesday (FSG/Foster, 2014), which she also wrote, since her debut with Hannah’s Bookmobile Christmas, written by Sally Derby (Holt, 2001). In 2004 she won the Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Award for My Name Is Yoon by Helen Recorvits (FSG/Foster).
Her presence in New York sparked a week-long series of events, beginning with a luncheon hosted by publisher Christy Ottaviano so that Swiatkowska and Herkert could meet key area librarians. Swiatkowska also presented a children’s art workshop at the library, in which she guided youngsters in creating self-portraits as their favorite book characters, performed with her string band, and spoke to 200 students. Here are a few highlights from the week.
Swiatkowska’s exhibit at the BPL includes a display of 22 pieces of original artwork from her books, as well as a site-specific installation entitled “The Secret Life of Books.” A few weeks before the opening, the illustrator considered which pieces to hang in the display. Photo: Kate Hosford.
At lunch to celebrate the publication of Mary Cassatt: editor Christy Ottaviano (l.), author Barbara Herkert (r.), and Herkert’s agent, Karen Grencik.
The BPL’s Central Library opened its exhibition season with displays from five artists, including Swiatkowska’s two-part show in the library’s Youth Wing. Swiatkowska spoke at the opening reception on October 1. Photo: Gregg Richards/BPL.
The illustrator is also a professional musician; she performed with her string band, Tildon Krautz, to a nearly full house in the BPL’s Dweck Auditorium on October 3. From l., Swiatkowska’s husband Gregg Weiss, Ian Blackwood, and Swiatkowska. Photo: Gregg Richards/BPL.
Swiatkowska poses before one of the dioramas from “The Secret Life of Books,” which tells the story of one boy’s journey as he enters the world of the book he is reading. Photo: Kate Hosford.
Swiatkowska and author/collaborator Kate Hosford, who brought the illustrator to the attention of Barbara Wing, exhibitions manager at the BPL, pose before one of the exhibit’s dioramas.
Swiatkowska worked for 11 months to construct “The Secret Life of Books,” which consists of black-and-white sketches, comic strips and 3D dioramas, some of which hold figurative sculptures made from papier-mâché, cement, and grout—“basically anything that was in our neighbor’s garage!” Photo: BPL.
On October 8, Swiatkowska and Hosford presented a program entitled “Two Truths and a Lie” to 200 students at the BPL. Intermittently throughout the program, three statements about Swiatkowska would be read, with the children asked to determine which one was not true, resulting in a lively discussion. Photo: BPL.
At the conclusion of the school program, Swiatkowska signed copies of Mary Cassatt: Extraordinary Impressionist Painter. Photo: BPL.