Opening Night: “Melancholy Menagerie” at Fullerton Museum

by CaroPosted on

Few images are more prevalent throughout art history than the eye, the window to the soul. The road that led to the popularity of the ‘big eyes’ style is not a straight one. “Melancholy Menagerie: A Gaze into the World of Big Eyes”, which opened Saturday at Fullerton Museum Center, archives its many twists and turns. While the source of this style can be argued, one thing is certain- it sparked a popular art culture internationally.

The exhibition begins in the late 1950s and early 1960s, a time when portraits of highly stylized bug-eyed waifs by American artists Keane, Eden, and Lee became trendy. At the same time in Japan, a young Osamu Tezuka was studying Western design from Disney animators. Their techniques inspired him to create his famous big eyed characters like Astro Boy and Princess Knight. Tezuka’s work provided the foundation of anime and manga, an unprecedented contemporary movement, which found its way to America through mass distribution.

It is carried on by a new generation that includes exhibiting artists Tim Burton, Camille Rose Garcia (featured here), Sas Christian, Mark Ryden, Yosuke Ueno, Kelly Vivanco, Camilla d’Errico, Fawn Gehweiler, and more.  Coincidentally, Tim Burton is also working on a bio film about Margaret Keane’s artwork entitled “Big Eyes”. Their paintings appear alongside children’s toys such like Blythe and Pity Puppy dolls. On the inspiration behind his work, artist Yosuke Ueno said, “An adventurer makes his way without fully knowing what lies ahead. When I am working, I can’t even imagine the outcome, and then suddenly, see a brand-new, beautiful path.” The same can be said about the ‘path’ of a style.

“Melancholy Menagerie: A Gaze into the World of Big Eyes” is now on view at Fullerton Museum Center through July.


Curator Kelly Chidester with artist Yosuke Ueno.


Yosuke Ueno


Yosuke Ueno (detail)


Sas Christian


Kelly Vivanco with her work.


Kelly Vivanco


Tatiana Suarez


Sarah Joncas


Liz McGrath


Fawn Gehweiler


Pinkytoast (detail)


Camille Rose Garcia (detail)


Ana Bagayan and Matthew J. Price

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