'Mirror Mirrored'

Art book recasts Brothers Grimm fairy tales in vivid hues of past and present

June 06. 2018 12:48PM
Harrisville illustrator Corwin Levi blended vintage images of Little Red Riding Hood into a modern-day collage titled “Little Red Cap and Wolves” in the art book “Mirror Mirrored.” 

From a former mill storehouse turned into an art studio on a lake in Harrisville comes the fantastical “Mirror Mirrored,” a limited-edition book by co-authors Corwin Levi and Michelle Aldredge.

The 384-page tome is a collection of 25 Grimms’ tales with almost 2,000 vintage illustrations of those stories remixed into fresh collages. In addition, 28 contemporary artists added color to the tales, and New York Times bestselling author Karen Joy Fowler penned the introduction.

The tales of a prince climbing up Rapunzel’s hair, Snow White running through the woods from her evil stepmother or Rumpelstiltskin dancing by the fire, pictures immediately springs to mind. Indeed, these stories are so visually engaging that artists and illustrators have been interpreting and reinterpreting them for 200 years, not only the narratives of “Little Red Riding Hood” and “Snow White” but the curious tale of how the moon was hung in the sky or the story about a ship of sailors drowned on dry land.

For “Mirror Mirroed,” Levi, a mixed-media artist, curator, illustrator and attorney, scoured New England bookstores, online auctions and library stacks, and then remixed scores of Golden Age pictures from 243 sources into new tale collages. He calls the merged pieces “repicts.”

Levi and co-author Aldredge, a writer, curator, designer and the founding editor of the blog Gwarlingo, also commissioned or curated contemporary visual artists who build on this legacy with their own reimaginings. They are glimpses into not only who we are but who we can become, for better or worse.

Artist Tomokazu Matsuyama paints an old, discharged soldier who takes his revenge by making off with all the crown’s wealth in a giant sack. MacArthur fellow Carrie Mae Weems asks whether there is any place for a black woman in a magic mirror’s fairy tale. DJ Spooky suggests that we’re all wandering around in an inescapable forest of consumerism.

“From the very beginning of this project, one of our primary goals was to visually liberate these tales from narrow interpretations,” Aldredge said in a press release. “After all, the best art opens up meaning instead of closing it down. What better way to add new perspectives to his rich tradition of storytelling than with artwork like contemporary artists Walter Martin and Paloma Muñoz’s Wall Street bankers in ‘The Two Travelers,’ John Kelly’s transformative, gender-bending self-portrait for ‘Iron John,’ and Tomokazu Matsuyama’s bicultural interpretation of the oven scene in ‘Six Get By in the Whole World,’ which melds slick pop-culture surfaces with Japanese art into a mesmerizing East-meets-West aesthetic, all remaking these stories for today’s audience. “

Three new video pieces also were created. URLs included in the book direct readers to video links by Brittany De Nigris, Joseph Keckler and Stephanie Williams.

For “Mirror Mirrored’s” dust jacket, author, artist and experimental musician Paul D. Miller, aka DJ Spooky, has created a 21st-century image, immersing a vintage silhouette of Little Red Riding Hood and the wolf in a consumerist barcode forest. As an added twist, in his version Red Riding Hood is black and the wolf red. The project was the perfect fit for an electronic and experimental hip hop musician who has remixed material from Daft Punk and Malcolm X to D. W. Griffith’s film “Birth of a Nation.”

“History is never too far in the rear view mirror,” Miller said. “This collection of vivid re-imagined works of one of the greatest collections of storytelling in Western history really brings a powerful insight into how artists can help bring stories into images, and back again.

Levi and Aldredge will discuss the “Mirror Mirrored” project and sign copies of the book at the Toadstool Bookshop in Peterborough at 4 p.m. Thursday.

Copies also also will be available at “Broke: The Affordable Arts Fair” from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Both events are part of the Thing in the Spring festival, also in Peterborough.

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