Colorful images of smiling trucks and a tutu-clad rabbit wielding a blowtorch, a selfie station with a larger-than-life robot drawing and a black-and-white sketch of an underwater home cover the walls of a downtown Decatur art gallery, offering a glimpse inside the imagination of David Gordon.
“That is what I’m interested in finding out about,” Kim Mitchell said, staring at the drawing of the living room with a life ring for the seat of a chair, an inflatable sofa, a fishing net for the ceiling and a diving helmet-shaped TV. “How did he come up with the design for SpongeBob’s living room?”
“Sequence: An Illustrator’s Story,” an exhibit featuring the sketches, drawings, lithographs, children’s books and graphic designs by Gordon, opened at the Carnegie Visual Arts Center on Tuesday.
Fans of Nickelodeon shows and Pixar and BlueSky Studios movies will recognize the creations by Gordon, who worked on “SpongeBob SquarePants,” “Toy Story,” “Monsters, Inc.,” “A Bug’s Life,” “Cars” and “Robots.” Gordon also animated commercials for Cheerios and Nike and wrote the anti-bullying children’s book, “Extremely Cute Animals Operating Heavy Machinery.”
“This is going to be his first visit to Alabama, and we have Rebecca Burns to thank for bringing him here,” Mitchell said.
A native of Decatur, Burns, who serves as the Carnegie’s Art Way exhibit coordinator at Huntsville International Airport, met Gordon while working at Nickelodeon.
To make the exhibit more interactive and kid-friendly, the Carnegie created selfie stations with “Robots” characters and a children’s corner, with coloring pages, Gordon’s children’s books and movies featuring the illustrator’s work.
The exhibit coincides with the art center’s Camp Carnegie, a weeklong summer camp for children in first to sixth grades. Gordon will attend the first two days of the camp, which runs from July 15-19, and teach the 42 participants about stop motion animation.
“We felt the kids could really identify with what he does because many of them have seen his work. It will be a great experience for them. He will talk with them about how he came up with these ideas for SpongeBob and for Pixar movies and illustrated them,” Mitchell said.
Along with stop motion animation, the camp will incorporate drama, music, the visual arts, yoga, technology and science classes.
“We are incorporating STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) into every activity at camp, from the stop motion animation where the kids will use iPads to learning about bees and pollination and how to make dyes out of plants in our dye garden,” Mitchell said.
While visiting Decatur, Gordon, along with Burns, will conduct a round table discussion about careers in the digital arts at the Alabama Center for the Arts. The Carnegie partnered with the arts center on Second Avenue to stage the event on July 16 at 6 p.m.
“We were brainstorming about how to best use David Gordon while he is here. This will be a great way to get him in front of many different types of students and expose them to different art professions,” Mitchell said. “We’re excited about bringing him here and reaching as many people as we can.”
To celebrate the exhibit’s opening, the Carnegie will host an artist reception for Gordon on July 12, 6-7:30 p.m. The cost is free for Carnegie members and $5 for non-members.
The exhibit will remain on display through Aug. 17. Admission to the Carnegie is free with donations accepted. Hours are Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The center is closed today to Saturday for the Fourth of July holiday. carnegiearts.org.
Other art exhibits in north Alabama currently on display include:
• Watercolor Society of Alabama’s 78th annual National Exhibition: The juried exhibit at Alabama Center for the Arts features works from artists representing 29 states, including Ohio, North Carolina, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Washington, Kansas, New York, Delaware, Tennessee and Alabama. Admission is free. Hours are Monday to Thursday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Friday, 8 a.m. to noon. Open to Aug. 2.
• Celebrating the 1960s: Works by pop artists, minimalists and photorealists dominate the Huntsville Museum of Art’s “Celebrating the 1960s” exhibit, open until Sept. 29. Featured artists include Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenbert, James Rosenquist, Frank Stella and Richard Estes. Open Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Thursday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sunday, noon-5 p.m. Admission is $12 for adults, $10 for military, educators and ages 60 and older, $5 for students and ages 6-11 and free for 5 and younger.