Over the past 30 years, Kevin Henkes has established himself as an illustrator and author of children’s books and novels. His new art exhibit hosted by the Bubbler at the Madison Central Library, 201 W. Mifflin St., reveals another dimension of his creativity.
“40: Collages by Kevin Henkes” is the first exhibition of its kind for him. Henkes’ need to be productive with his hands between books yielded 40 abstract paper collages in four years. Components of the collages were created from paper he saved from the 1980s when he was an undergraduate at UW-Madison working with Walter Hamady.
Henkes grew up in Racine and, as explained on his publisher’s website, he chose to attend UW-Madison “in large part because of the School of Education’s Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC).” He traveled to New York after his freshman year with a ranked list of his favorite publishers. Greenwillow Books was his first stop; he was signed on the spot to publish a picture book.
Writing and illustrating have procured numerous literary awards for Henkes including Caldecott honors, the Caldecott Medal, Geisel honors, and Newberry honors. Most recently, his picture book “Waiting” received two of the highest honors in children’s literature, being named a 2016 Caldecott Honor Book and a Geisel Honor Book — only the second time any author has won that combination of awards.
This exhibit is not the first time Henkes has created with mediums other than illustrating and writing. He started making small animal sculptures in 2006 during open studio hours at the Higher Fire clay studio on Regent Street. Some of those sculptures sitting on his studio windowsill sparked him to write “Waiting.”
A long-time Madison resident, Henkes has a strong connection to the library. He regularly appears at Madison literary events and the Wisconsin Book Festival. In the exhibit’s press release, Bubbler coordinator Trent Miller said, “Madison Public Library and the Bubbler are excited to host this show to highlight his breadth as an artist.”
— Robyn Norton