|From Aesop to Updike comes home to The Gorey House
This summer I introduced my family to the Edward Gorey House. Already well-exposed to Gorey and his seemingly endless stream of little books, cats, tee shirts and calendars, strewn about the house since birth, to these three young boys (and one very patient and obliging spouse) having a house full of Gorey stuff is as normal as a house full of cats. Which we have as well. But back to the visit.
They could hardly suppress their giggles, wandering through the rooms of cases and brick-a-brac which forms the bulk of Edward Gorey's old creaky house, now museum. To them, it wasn't a museum, it was still a house. And afterwards, they played out back on the hill with the wrought iron Doubtful Guest and magnolia tree shrubbery and faux-gravestone markers, and rejoiced in the spirit of the place. In short, it was a home and was meant to be used as such. The intimacy of the house, the congenial director and his staff and docents, along with patrons, was a welcoming space. They've been exposed to a lot of museums by now over the years, but this was not what they expected. My wife is still trying to find the right words to describe it. My oldest high-schooler called it 'authentic'.
This season, the EGH celebrates Gorey's commercial side, his 9 to 5 existence, and what nearly 50 years of Gorey plugging away at creating book covers looks like. He designed them, drew layouts and artwork, sometimes rejecting a seemingly solid design and reworking it until it pleased him. He handlettered most covers, but also used typeset. This exhibition ties in with the publication of Edward Gorey: His Book Cover Art & Design earlier this year from Pomegranate.
I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the few cover designs which were ultimately redesigned and unused. Gorey's ability to create a set of characters from a text by Henry James that possess such pathos is simply inspiring (one quickly gets the sense that Maisie already knows too much, and that the odds are not in her favor). And though we understand Gorey did not embrace his Dracula book project, we wish he had completed it all the same. Finally, I would love to interview any students who attended Gorey's advanced children's book illustration class at the School of Visual Arts in NYC, started in 1965.
The Gorey House itself seems lighter, roomier, a little more breathing space this year. For the better, I felt. There were more etchings on view in their dedicated alcove, and Gorey's theatrical works presented itself more completely in its own space. You could now spend time in the kitchen, where much of Gorey's more eccentric collectables are presented. The character of the House seemed to be coming through.
When I visit any museum, I look for the profound. The new, the unknown. I expect to be surprised and entertained. I look for the connectedness of the building to it's subject. I hope to find the exhibits tuned to an artist's talents, that any why's are addressed. I tend to rate my experience based on intangibles like these. The best museums are more than buildings that house art and artifact. The best museums house a spirit. Many museums struggle with that, others get it despite themselves. Those that get it, their purpose is fulfilled. Over the years, the Edward Gorey House has managed to keep the spirit of it's last true owner alive. Catch it while you can.
-- Glen E., July 2015
The Edward Gorey House, Summer 2015
...and while you're here,
do you remember