at the Ishpeming Carnegie Public Library
by Mark Patraw
Published on 4/23/14
When I stopped in at the Ishpeming Carnegie Public Library, in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, on April 15th (2014), I was surprised, and delighted, to discover an assortment of dioramas on display, based on various books, utilizing rabbit Peeps candy as "people". I'm assuming that the librarians organized this project, and I applaud them for combining reading, art, and Easter all into one event. I love this type of stuff, and the creative output of children is always a joy for the eyes and soul. Alas, I didn't have my digital camera with me that day, and, by the time I returned, on the 22nd, after the Easter weekend holiday, I was fearful that they'd be gone, but, happily, they were still there, so, here's a photo gallery, along with my thoughts, as I felt that these creations were important enough that they should be preserved, online, for posterity.
Disclaimer: I don't know any of the individuals who made these, nor did I have any involvement in this art project whatsoever. These are just my opinions as an observer.
This one is based on Captain Under-pants and was made by Brandon O'Brien, age ten. I've never heard of that book, so, I have absolutely no idea what's going on here, other than that the rabbits on the left, with their dismembered friend(?), look a lot happier than the ones on the right. I like that he gave the sad-looking Peeps bunnies toothpick legs, increasing their stature, and the tree designs are also nice (one of the things that I find interesting about these pieces is how different everyone's approach was to constructing a tree).
I don't know what the significance of that dismembered rabbit is, but it certainly looks like something sinister is going on to me.
The Wizard of Oz is the theme of Taylor Stanaway's work, who is also ten-years-old. The whole composition is great, but what I really love are the red plastic Barrel of Monkeys primates in the trees--that's sheer genius if you ask me (although it would have been even more fun if the artist had glued some little wings onto their backs). Out of all of these environments, Taylor's is my favorite.
Here's a zoomed-in view of the long-eared sugary trio as they make their way down the yellow brick road. The pink bunny in the dress is doubtlessly Dorothy. I'd speculate that the golden rabbit represents the Scarecrow (the red candy could be his misaligned nose and I'm guessing that the toothpick segment in his head is meant to imply straw). That leaves the blue one, who might be the Tin Man (using blue to approximate a metallic finish is a logical design choice in my mind). On the other hand, the red candy could also be the Tin Man's heart, so, it's hard to say. I believe that the Lion was the last companion Dorothy met on her way to meet the Wizard, so, to me, it makes sense that he'd be the one missing.
Here's a closer look at the "flying" monkeys in the trees.
Hmm, perhaps those red candies are apples that the apes are flinging?
Here we have a representation of Dr. Seuss' The Sneetches by Heather. I may be wrong, but I suspect that this one was made by of one of the librarians (I'm not on a first-name basis with any of them, but this piece looks like the work of an adult--Heather's age is conspicuously missing and her printing is much neater than most children's penmanship). Yellow Peeps make for a pretty good approximation of the titular golden birds and the campfire, with its pipe cleaner "flames" and toothpick "logs", is wonderful. Notice how the Sneetches on the left, without "stars upon thars" have unhappy faces, while the lucky ones with green stars on their chests are enjoying themselves. While the plot is the same, I have much stronger memories of the animated cartoon version of the Sneetches than the actual story book. I feel that the backdrop could have been a bit more elaborate/detailed, but, overall, this one is my second favorite out of the bunch.
That's got to be the best improvised bonfire effect I've ever seen.
Ella Kuupus (no age given, which makes me suspicious that this one is the work of an adult as well) created this scene from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I haven't read the book, but I did watch the movie (both parts), yet, I'm not sure what this diorama is supposed to represent. It looks like a wedding to me. More so than anyone else, Ella really made an effort to make her Peeps look like people, giving them clothes and hair, which I like. I also appreciate the design of her tree, on the right--tangled pipe cleaners do a fair job of conveying the idea of foliage.
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was the inspiration for this piece by ten-year-old Ezra James Prillwitz (I'm not quite sure if that's the correct spelling of his name or not; the printing was a bit difficult for me to decipher). The thing that immediately struck me about this one is the sheer amount of violence on display (I probably would have done something similar at that age). There's an awful lot of blood and decapitated/impaled bunnies here! Ezra's tree is perhaps the best, with pipe cleaner branches snaking in-and-out of the rolled trunk and small green leaves glued onto the limbs. Another neat creative touch is how he made a huge, ogre-ish rabbit by chaining together several Peeps chunks onto a toothpick armature.
War is hell, even for Peeps!
Beware the giant yellow Peep bunny of doom!
This is the lonely little Peeps angel bunny floating high over the battlefield and probably musing on the follies of man.
I also liked this log in the foreground, constructed from half a toilet paper roll, with gnarled bark lines/knots drawn on the exterior.
Out of all the dioramas on display, Annalea's (age nine) struck me as the most unusual. It's based on My Story--I'm not sure if that's the actual title of a book, or if Annalea meant that this is supposed to represent her own, original tale. Much of the opening of her box is obscured by a large tower, which was an interesting design choice. At first, I thought that maybe you could fold/bend the tower out of the way, to get a better look inside, but that doesn't seem to be the case, and I wasn't about to damage a child's hard work by forcing it.
This is what's going on in the interior, behind the tower.
I'm not sure if this is supposed to represent a room inside the structure, or something else entirely.
Seeing these dioramas was a bright spot in an otherwise unremarkable day, and I appreciate the efforts of everyone involved for making it happen. I sincerely hope that the library staff will host similar projects in the future.
Given that the City of Ishpeming has a population of around 8,000 people, which includes hundreds of children, many of whom I frequently see in the library, I was surprised that there were only six examples on display (and, as I indicated above, I believe that two of those were made by adults). Based on the numbers alone, I'd expect there to have been a larger amount of participants. Perhaps there were more, but many of the children elected to take their masterpieces home with them? I certainly wouldn't have passed this opportunity up if I was a child in the community.
[4/24/14 Addendum] I'm not a Facebook user, but, on a whim, I checked out the Ishpeming Carnegie Public Libary's Facebook page and saw, in their gallery of photos for the Peep-o-rama event, that I'm missing two displays, one based on Disney's Frozen and the other on Crossed (while I know a fair amount about Frozen and its characters, I don't know anything about the latter). It's possible that those two were there on the 15th (I think I can vaguely recall the two Peeps rabbits modified to resemble Anna and Elsa), but they most definitely were not present on the 22nd when I shot my photos (I even went so far as to look behind the shelving unit to make sure that I didn't miss any). My apologies to the two creators of those items, whom I suspect probably took their dioramas home with them prior to the 22nd, but I can't report on what wasn't there.
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The midi music playing is the main theme from World 3: Water Land in Super Mario Bros. 3 for the NES.