[Written by Stephen Wright]
Bermudian author and illustrator Elizabeth Mulderig has created an interactive exhibit called Bermuda Wonderland, aimed at “children and children at heart”, which opens at the Bermuda National Gallery on Friday [October 20].
Inspired by Alice in Wonderland, the show explores the island’s parishes through the lens of the beloved children’s novel by Lewis Carroll and features nine 3ft by 5ft paintings – one for each parish.
“The foreground captures the ‘Wonderland’ in my imagination, and in the background is the parish with the site it’s famous for,” Ms Mulderig told Bernews.
“For instance, Gibbs Hill Lighthouse is in the Southampton painting and Fort St Catherine in the St George’s one.
“It’s an educational show. Each painting has a quote from the book coinciding with the piece so a child can see the relationship between words and pictures.”
Another theme prevalent in the paintings is ballet, another of Ms Mulderig’s lifelong passions, and her affection for her childhood caregiver, Ruth Harvey, who appears as a tiny Alice ballet dancer in the Lobster Quadrille.
“At age five, I danced in the Bermuda School of Russian Ballet’s production of Alice in Wonderland,” she said.
“I was cast as one of the cards who paints the roses red and white. So, there are many cards and roses throughout these new pieces.
“There’s a nod to theatre in the works. They are set up like a stage design. The first one has the white rabbit in a spotlight welcoming everyone and the last one has a ghost light shining under the moon. A ghost light is usually a light bulb kept on all night in theatres to ward off theatre ghosts.
“Another passion was my love for my caregiver Ruth Harvey. She was fun and funny and helped make my childhood magical. The Devonshire painting is dedicated to her as that’s where she lived.”
Tiny the Tree Frog, a much-loved character from Bermuda’s best-selling children’s book by Ms Mulderig, also appears in one of the paintings.
“I could not leave Tiny out of this show. He’s hanging out under one of the mushrooms,” said Ms Mulderig, who has degrees in English literature and art from Boston University and the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York.
“You can tour Bermuda the way Tiny the Tree Frog does in my children’s book. Starting in St George’s and ending up in Sandy’s, the tour starts with sunrise in the background then brings you throughout the day ending up with moonrise at the end.”
The show also features an interactive element, whereby visitors can use their cell phones to watch the paintings “come alive” with sound and movement.
“An AI company based in New York has designed a high-tech part involving holding your phone up to the paintings and watching them come alive with sound,” Ms Mulderig added. “Turtles swim and butterflies fly to the sound of the breeze and water.
“There is a Mad Hatter type of room that has a long table with crayons rather than a tea party on it. Children can crayon a print of one of the characters in the show to take home.”
Bermuda Wonderland opens in the Hereward T. Watlington Room on Friday and will be on display through to May next year.
The exhibition was curated by Eve Godet Thomas and sponsored by the Christian Humann Foundation with support from Mr and Mrs W.H. Williams, One Communications and Gorham’s Limited.