Mingei Book Club: Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine and Steven and William Ladd’s Function and Fantasy
Mingei International Museum
Friday, March 14 2014 at 5:30-7
SDSU’s Dr. Edith Frampton
Event Review by Ellie Benitez
Placing my hand on the sleek metal door handles, I pulled open the glass doors of the Mingei International Museum and entered into the front room, my boots clacking sharply against the flawless wooden floor. After receiving my little green Mingei sticker, I found out that I had fifteen minutes to explore before the book club meeting began, and so I rounded the stark white corner that held the metal words “Function and Fantasy” and entered into a world of Steven and William Ladd’s creation.
The Mingei holds a unique sort of book club in that instead of focusing solely on a book, it combines the essence of the novel with a special exhibition being shown within their walls. “Function and Fantasy,” an exhibition created by two New York based brothers, features whimsical artwork created with beads, fabric, needles, and boxes. Born in Missouri, Steven and William Ladd were instilled at an early age with two important values that provided the foundation of their artistry: follow your dreams and work your very hardest. Throughout their work these values can be clearly seen, especially in the intricate beadwork of the ties that must have taken the patience of a superhuman to create. The brother had the desire to fashion not only functional work, like the various handbags, but also the fantastical, as evidenced by the towers that hold manifestations of childhood memories.
Once I had toured through the expansive exhibition, it was time for the book club event to begin. I was really interested to see how Ray Bradbury’s novel Dandelion Wine would connect with the Ladd brother’s artwork, and so I sat down among the intimate circle of chairs set up in the middle of the museum. Dr. Edith Frampton, professor of English and Comparative Literature at SDSU, led the discussion on Bradbury’s novel, beginning by handing out a sheet filled with prompts and providing a brief background about Ray Bradbury. Armed with these questions, we then dispersed back into the exhibition in order to be able to think about the relationship between Bradbury’s descriptions of rural country life and the Ladd brother’s sharp city artistry.
The third prompt on the sheet captured my attention as I wandered back through the exhibition:
And he was gesturing up through the trees above to show them how it was woven across the sky or how the sky was woven into the trees, he wasn’t sure which. But there it was, he smiled, and the weaving went on, green and blue, if you watched and saw the forest shift its humming loom.”
In your opinion, what statement does Dandelion Wine ultimately made about rural town life? How do the rural and/or the urban figure, if at all, in the Brooklyn-based Ladd brother’s work, in your view?
Contemplating what I had read within the deeply descriptive pages of Bradbury’s novel
and what I had seen within the intricate work of the Ladd brothers, I returned to our discussion, ready to contribute. The conversation was open and comfortable; each person present was free to convey opinions and ideas. The third prompt was introduced and I was able to give my connection. A particular
piece of work of the Ladd brothers, entitled “Join the Colony, 2013”, had a placard that explained how that particular work was dedicated to the people who had helped them throughout the years. Dandelion Wine is filled with such connections; indeed, human relationships are at the core of every story within the rural, small town novel. It doesn’t matter whether you are from Green Town, Illinois, NYC, New York, or San Diego, California; human connection can be found anywhere.
Visit the Mingei website for updates on future events!