Meadowlands, A Wetlands Survival Story: Watercolor Illustrations by Thomas F. Yezerski
January 27 - March 10, 2013
For Tom Yezerski, all roads seemed to lead to the Meadowlands. Literally.
As a recent transplant to New Jersey from Allentown, Pa., Yezerski moved to Rutherford 14 years ago seeking a reasonably affordable community close enough to New York City for him to pursue his dream of becoming an established children’s book artist and author. As so many newcomers discover, the dizzying array of the area’s highway signage conspired to lead him astray, and more often than not, he found himself driving into this vast wilderness with the reputation as the source of what made New Jersey the butt of many jokes in Pennsylvania.
A nature-lover, Yezerski found his curiosity piqued, so he did some research into the history of the Meadowlands and visited the nature center at the heart of it, and soon hatched a project that became his fourth work as a writer and artist of children’s books, Meadowlands, A Wetlands Survival Story, published in 2011 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. The Museum is pleased to present an exhibit of the original watercolor and ink paintings that comprise the book, with an opening reception on Sunday, Jan. 27, from 2 – 5 p.m. The show will be on view in the Upper Gallery until March 10.
Ten years in the making, the book plunged Yezerski into research not only about the history of the place, but the biodiversity of the species that once teemed in the tidal marshlands and are now returning, after a concerted effort by federal, state, and local authorities and environmental activist groups. His book details in images and text—simple enough for elementary school readers but complex enough to suit the enormous scale—the fascinating story of the return to health of this natural treasure at the western edge of Hudson County.
Yezerski wrote Meadowlands and sketched the drawings while living in Rutherford, but painted the final art after moving to Hoboken. He currently lives in Hoboken on Garden Street, with his wife, and says they both enjoy hiking and canoeing through “the Meadows” and excursions with the Hackensack Riverkeepers organization.
Yezerski’s first work as a professional artist came in creating prints for children’s clothing. Eager to return to illustration, he started writing and illustrating his own book, about his Polish and Irish immigrant grandparents, a Romeo-and-Juliet love story set in the coal-mining country of eastern Pennsylvania. That story became his first published book, Together in Pinecone Patch, in 1998. Subsequent picture books Queen of the World and A Full Hand also depict family members as comic or historic characters. He has also illustrated 10 other books for other authors. The New York Times listed Meadowlands in its Notable Children’s Books of 2011, and the New York Public Library listed it among its Best Non-Fiction Books of 2011. It earned an inaugural Cook Prize Honor from Bankstreet College.
Yezerski took his first art lessons while in the third grade, riding his bike to an artist’s studio every Saturday morning to copy greeting cards in chalk pastel. During high school, he studied drawing and color theory at The Barnstone Studios, in Coplay, Pa. Yezerski earned his B.F.A. in Illustration in 1991, at Syracuse University. Visit his website at http://www.thomasfyezerski.com/index.html.
This exhibition was made possible by a Block Grant from the State/County Partnership program for the Arts administered by the Hudson County Division of Cultural and Heritage Affairs/Tourism Development, Thomas A. DeGise, County Executive, and the Board of Chosen Freeholders.