Banned-book trading cards celebrate art

10/5/2012 7:30 AM
By Associated Press

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Barry Fitzgerald is both artist and avid reader.

When he heard about the Lawrence Public Library's call for artists to create banned-book-inspired images for trading cards, he wanted to give it a whirl. And what better fodder then despotic pigs?

Fitzgerald's painting depicting themes from George Orwell's "Animal Farm" was one of seven picked for the library's project, a collaboration with the Lawrence Arts Center to celebrate Banned Books Week, which kicks off today.

Libraries nationwide recognize the week every year, but Lawrence library leaders think the trading card project is the first effort of its kind in the country.

"We don't think it's ever been done this way before," library marketing director Susan Brown says. "It was a neat way to engage the arts community on an issue that affects us all."

The seven winning artworks were turned into trading cards. On the back of each card are descriptions of why that book was banned and what about it inspired the artist.

The library will release a new card to the public each day, so patrons can collect all seven by the end of the week.

Cards are available for free at the library, 707 Vt., and the Arts Center, 940 N.H. At the Arts Center, visitors also can view all 48 artworks entered in the contest.

Other titles chosen for cards are Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse-Five," John Updike's "Rabbit, Run," Jack London's "Call of the Wild," ''Little Red Riding Hood," Charles Darwin's "On the Origin of Species" and Orwell's "1984."

Fitzgerald, a Lawrence resident and professor of design at Kansas University, picked "Animal Farm" because among the books on the banned list, it was the one he remembered best.

"I saw an animated version of it when I was in first grade," he says. "I'm not even sure who thought that was a good idea ... but it made a real strong impression on me."

After reading the book as an adult, its message sank in.

"Now that I'm a grown-up, I'm a big fan of symbolism and metaphor and imagery in storytelling, and that book's just loaded with it," he says.

Fitzgerald's bold, graphic design features a barn with a stylized pig hoof descending down on top of it to symbolize pending danger and the control the pigs had over all the animals, he said. The limited color palette includes pinks — the color associated with pigs — and reds — alluding to the Russian revolution.

"Animal Farm" was banned in both Soviet-era Russia and the United States for its political theories, according to the library's information on the trading card.

Not everyone supports Banned Books Week.

Focus on the Family, one of its best-known opponents, has historically complained that the event misleadingly highlights books to which parents have protested but libraries have generally not actually pulled from shelves — making them challenged but not banned. The group has objected to children having access to material, such as sexually explicit literature, in school libraries without parental consent.

To counter Banned Books Week, the group encourages families to donate books depicting a "faith-based and socially conservative viewpoint on hot-topic issues such as homosexuality and abortion."

Libraries consider Banned Books Week key to preserving intellectual freedom by keeping titles available.

"One of the tenets of librarianship is that people should be allowed to read what they want to read," Brown says. "If you think that this is inappropriate, don't read it."

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