ces of Alice
pinafore, and pantaloons, and her odd companions, remain the definitive portrayals.
As soon as the British copyright on Alice's Adventures in Wonderland expired in 1907, new illustrated editions quickly appeared, revealing countless artistic styles and liberties. In 2008, Modernbook Editions published Maggie Taylor’s portfolio of digital manipulations of the story’s characters. With saturated color and unusual juxtapositions, her very process playfully questions reality versus fantasy.
In addition to books, Alice began appearing in film even before sound. A silent movie directed by Walter Lang was made in 1928. Walt Disney’s animated 1951 classic Alice in Wonderland is the most widely known. Personally intrigued, Walt himself supervised the production,
which he had long planned to produce. (The success of his Alice Comedies [1923–1926] about a little girl wandering around in a drawn world helped launch the later enterprise.) Disney acquired rights to Tenniel’s well- known illustrations, upon which he based the animations. Among the most notable features of the film are the contributions of artist Mary Blaire, who fashioned the bold color, modernist style, and whimsical mood of Wonderland.
Central to the plot but often overly emphasized are Alice’s heightened sensibilities during her enchanted dream experience, which lend a surreal edge to most interpretations. In the Disney film, animation sequences inspired by Salvador Dali convey Alice’s state of mind. Considered the father of Surrealism, even Dali himself was taken
with Alice. Among the most sought- after works by him is a suite of illustrations made for a 1969 edition of Alice in Wonderland published by Marcenas Press and Random House.
From opera to psychedelic rock, even the music genre has gotten into the Alice act. Jefferson Airplane came out with the popular song “White Rabbit” on their 1967 album. Suggested by Carroll’s passages in which Alice grows taller and then smaller, the music, combined with the lyrics, suggest the sensory distortions caused by hallucinogens. While much has made of this, during the Victorian era in which the book was written, there was a very different view of what are today known as controlled substances.
Not only surreal, much contemporary Alice-inspired art is downright uncanny, attracting viewers by its strangeness.
Common themes include the psychological dilemmas faced by young girls. In her 1997 Wonder series, Anna Gaskell sometimes presents twins identically dressed as Alice and photographed in various scenes— serenely lying on the grass or falling to the ground— to pose classic questions of identity, such as “Who am I?” and “Where am I going?”
The search for meaning is the focus of the newest film version of Alice. In Tim Burton’s ghoulish Alice in Wonderland, released this spring, Alice, now 19, returns to the magical world of her childhood adventure, where she reunites with old friends and learns of her true destiny.
Elizabeth Chubbuck Weinstein,
LASM Museum Curator