Lois Reynolds Mead

Art and a pink monkeyflower in a native plant garden…


Chang’s Elephants…

In January of this year, I had a unique experience of setting up an art show in my community library. Along one wall were the paintings of my father and in a glass case would be my collages and handmade books. This was a large case with four shelves. The bottom shelf was quite low and my work that needs to be standing up really could not be viewed well from that vantage point. At the last moment I decided to open some old sketchbooks of my father’s to lay flat on the shelf and they could be seen perfectly. In fact there was quite a lot of comment at the artists’ reception about the uniqueness of the sketchbooks. When I took down the show and took everything home I realized that the sketchbooks I had there were just the tip of the iceberg. So I cleaned out a cabinet and gathered all that I have together and went through them. My stack of notebooks also included a mock-up of a children’s book my father must have put together in the early 50’s. It was called “Bobby Goes To The Circus”. I thought there was a story line there and I wanted to share the wealth of sketches with Chang’s descendents.

In March, I got to visit Portland where they had a baby elephant born last November. On a lovely day with my niece, Katura, I was able to shoot video at the zoo and I enlisted her to record a soundtrack narration for me.

The Bobby in the title of the story is my big brother Bob. There is a sketch of him from the back discussing the anatomy of elephants. There are two pictures of me (young, thin, and with long hair) from 1974. They were taken by my father (always in black and white and printed 8″x10″) and are from the first year I was married and the first year I lived in Redlands, California. My parents came out to visit and since there was a small circus on a vacant lot just outside of town we took Jed, Bob’s son at around one years old, to see his first elephant. Jed’s son, Jesse, is the narrator of the story. Katura, Bob’s daughter and Jed’s sister, who is an artist in her own right contributed some sketches of our day at the zoo and helped to get a recording of Jesse reading the story. Jesse has an impressive, expressive reading style and is a premier blooper comedian. I do believe he has a career ahead of him as a voice-over artist.

I had to shoot through glass to get video of Baby Lily, so I apologize for stray reflections, but we were so lucky to see her momma perform for a little kibble dessert. Only one chance to get that shot! You should know that being a baby elephant is some kind of hard work and sometimes you just have to plop down wherever you are. Some of the pages of the sketchbooks have yellowed with age but they are a treasure I wanted to collect to share with you. Any relatives wishing a copy on CD to store in trunks in their attics…just let me know.

The lights have dimmed, the spots have come up. The ringmaster has come into the tent. Children of all ages…have some fun!