When I was invited to visit with the 2014 Sendak Fellows at Maurice’s farm, I thought it would be, you know, a “farm,” AKA a rurally situated but otherwise urbane getaway retreat. But it was an actual farming farm with rows of vegetables and corn and a tractor and silo and chickens.
Sendak’s longtime assistant Lynn Caponera now owns Scotch Hill Farm, donating all its don’t-panic-it’s-organic produce to food banks in the area. Assisting program director Dona Ann McAdams, Lynn also is something like house mother to the Sendak Fellows, an annual five-week retreat for (this year) two lucky illustrators who get time and space and a stipend to work on anything they want. (This is the first year the Fellowship was held at the farm; in previous years it occurred in a big house down the road from Sendak’s own in Connecticut, but that place was sold after the artist’s death.)
Nora Krug and Harry Bliss are this year’s Fellows and it was a pleasure to get to know them both. Harry is working on the pictures for a graphic memoir by a baseball guy and currently wrestling with dividing the text into panels; the morning I visited his studio at the farm he was also composing a for-the-hell-of-it painting inspired by a snake he had seen the day before (garter, Lynn assured me).
Nora is also working on a graphic memoir, for adults, about her and her (German) family’s reckoning with the Nazi shadow over their lives and their country generally since WWII; she showed me a hair-raisingly ordinary photo album she had found at a flea market in which images of swastikas and Hitler salutes were casually interspersed among pictures of family parties and vacations.
I don’t know that I was all that helpful to these artists–although I did show Nora The Juniper Tree and consoled Harry over the New Yorker‘s rejection of his latest batch of cartoons–but I am certainly grateful for the time they gave me and patient attention to my questions technical and otherwise.
The spirit of Himself, of course was everywhere, including the bathroom–
And even behind the cornfield:
I know Maurice loved Harry’s work and I know he would have loved Nora’s (check out her Red Riding Hood). The Sendak Fellowship was very important to Maurice in the last years of his life–Lynn told me she had to pace his visits over to the Fellows so as to not tire himself out. I hope that even in the Castle Yonder he knows what good he left behind.