From chewing gum to baseball hand signals, some of the nation’s most interesting innovations can be traced to Ohio.
Viewers can revisit a few of these “firsts” through the lens of children’s picture-book illustrations in “Ohio: The Start of It All,” continuing through Oct. 14 Downtown at the Ohio Arts Council’s Riffe Gallery.
The exhibit presents 60 original illustrations from the University of Findlay’s Mazza Museum, a gem itself that boasts the most diverse collection of original artwork by children’s book illustrators from throughout the world.
The Riffe Gallery exhibit, the third collaboration with the museum, was assembled by Mazza curator Dan Chudzinski, who matched the illustrations with Ohio facts — some obvious, others a bit of a stretch — printed on panels beside the works. The books from which the illustrations came are provided on racks below the artworks.
To make the presentation even more cheerful, Ohio State University student Cassie Lentz, who is pursuing her master’s degree in theater, has re-created illustrations from the books in large, colorful paintings on the gallery walls. Her images of children and a dog marching in a parade accompany Ted Rand’s watercolor painting for “My Shadow” (1990), based on the Robert Louis Stevenson poem.
Nearly all of the illustrations have a jubilant, active tone.
Kevin Luthardt’s “Zoom!” (2004) shows a boy (grinning) and his dad (grimacing) on a roller coaster, accompanied by text about Cedar Point in Sandusky.
Chuck Richards’ “Garden Hose” (2003), from the book “Jungle Gym Jitters,” is a graphite and colored-pencil scene of a kid clutching his hair in panic as his father fights an out-of-control hose spewing water onto a fleeing pooch. The Ohio link: the mid-1800s invention of vulcanized rubber in Akron.
Some illustrators are represented with multiple works, including Rand and Steven Kellogg, whose watercolor…