I have posted about the Olympia, WA-based artist Nikki McClure before – about some children and nature-themed art on display (in the exhibit Nikki McClure: Cutting Her Own Path, 1996-2011 at the Museum of Contemporary Craft in Portland in 2011) and a quote from her that I used for a thought of the week in October. My wife loves her annual calendar, and we have several of her books. We also have a print of hers hanging up in our home. I was excited to learn that the original art for McClure’s 2015 calendar as well as original art for the new children’s book May the Stars Drip Down would be on display at Land Gallery in North Portland (from Nov. 15-Dec. 2, 2014). Last Saturday, my kids headed over to the gallery, where McClure was on hand for the first day of the exhibit. Sadly, my wife was unable to go, but I got McClure to sign her copy of Collect Raindrops: The Seasons Gathered.
May the Stars Drip Down (Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2014, 40 pp.) is a collaboration between musician Jeremy Chatelain and Nikki McClure. “May the Stars Drip Down” is a lullaby song from Chatelain’s band Cub Country‘s 2009 album Stretch That Skull Cover and Smile.
I am not familiar with the music, but the words work very well for a young children’s book, and McClure’s papercut art to match it is stunning. It’s amazing the level of detail, action, and beauty she conveys by cutting away from single sheets of black paper with an X-Acto knife. Like sculpting, she creates by taking away material from her medium, and I love seeing how her use of negative space (what has been taken away, rather than what portions of the paper were left intact) can really make the image. The following images are original artwork from May the Stars Drip Down, which do no justice to seeing them in person.
The lullaby follows a young boy’s dream following his mother reading to him before bed. Characters and objects throughout are from his own life. The soft blue colors enhancing McClure’s papercuts denote the night, while toward the end a bright yellow takes over as morning comes. The stars and moon are ever-present as the young boy explores among sand dunes, the winds among clouds, in a mountain meadow, and across a rocky coastline. Reading this I feel an never-breaking connectedness to family and nature come across the pages. The boy’s mother will always be his mother, and the sand, owl feathers, insects among the grass, and sea stars will always be part of us, as we are part of nature. Just as these family and nature connections are, May the Stars Drip Down is a beautiful – a beautiful message conveyed through beautiful words and art.
During the opening, McClure gave a talk. We did not stay around for that, unfortunately (you know, two kids, at a talk?). We did, however, go to a park we have not been to before and played on that cold, fall afternoon. While I would have loved to hear McClure talk about her life and art, going outside was much better for the kids. I think McClure would agree!
Learn more about McClure’s process for developing the art for May the Stars Drip Down: