Museum exhibits unseen work of Springfield artist David Catrow

: "...Does the Dream Dream the Dream? Unseen Works of David Catrow" will feature 20 large-scale paintings, including some inspired by the coronavirus pandemic, from the Springfield artist at the Springfield Museum of Art. Contributed photo
: "...Does the Dream Dream the Dream? Unseen Works of David Catrow" will feature 20 large-scale paintings, including some inspired by the coronavirus pandemic, from the Springfield artist at the Springfield Museum of Art. Contributed photo

David Catrow’s artistic talent has graced all types of media over the years including newspapers, books and films. Now the Springfield resident’s art has hit the wall – in a good way.

The former Springfield News-Sun artist and cartoonist is reaching into new territory with his first ever exhibition, “…Does the Dream Dream the Dreamer? Unseen Works of David Catrow,” which opens today at the Springfield Museum of Art’s McGregor Gallery.

From 1984 through 2005, News-Sun readers found Catrow enhancing stories with his detailed graphics or reflections of life at the time through his political cartoons, which have been syndicated to 1,000 papers in the U.S. and Canada.

He found new creative outlets as a writer/illustrator of children’s books, landing multiple times on the New York Times Best Seller List and in numerous school libraries. Anyone who has seen animated films such as “Despicable Me” or “Horton Hears a Who” has also seen his work creating visual development for those.

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The chance to do large paintings, some influenced by the coronavirus pandemic, will make up the roughly 20 works in the exhibit.

“In some ways, my work has not changed but it has in terms of what influences me,” said Catrow. “I’ve had my work exhibited, but mostly books. It’s also a challenge to do this kind of work, just to see if I could do it.”

Catrow was flattered when former Museum of Art executive director Ann Fortescue suggested him for an exhibition. He at first thought it would be a retrospective of his book and political cartoon work, which wasn’t inspiring, but the chance to display his other work was.

The Museum’s McGregor Gallery, the largest in the facility, set the creative spark.

“I visited the space and said I’d love my show to be there. I saw this as an opportunity to do something different. I wanted my work to be big, to create large objects,” said Catrow.

If he was going to go into a big gallery, Catrow thought big, with the largest painting being 15 by 12 feet. Those familiar with his work will find Catrow trademarks such as dog and bulbous-headed boy.

“There’s a narrative. When you do something long enough, it becomes evident and the narrative seeps out,” he said.

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Catrow moved to a new artistic space in Springfield in January and the reality of an exhibition had him waking up in a sweat, he confessed. He’d been traveling when the pandemic began and it would become a catalyst in some of the works.

“You’re operating in this medium of where we’re at,” he said. "There is some angst, apprehension is evident in what I began to paint. The work is raw, dirty but communicates the immediacy of what we were in. It will come through and it’s been cathartic.

“When I work, it’s from an element of hope. You hope (people) will get something from that, that it’s essentially a hopeful kind of thing that transcends the gloom of the global virus as something positive.”

The first piece inspired by the pandemic is 18 feet by five feet, which Catrow describes as almost like a comic strip depicting a family of birds titled “Corvids,” which means a bird of the crow family. It may sound similar to another familiar word, just add an “R”.

The works of Springfield artist David Catrow, a former Springfield News-Sun artist and political cartoonist and New York Times Best Seller List author/illustrator, are the subject of a new exhibition at the Springfield Museum of Art. Contributed photo
The works of Springfield artist David Catrow, a former Springfield News-Sun artist and political cartoonist and New York Times Best Seller List author/illustrator, are the subject of a new exhibition at the Springfield Museum of Art. Contributed photo

“It sounds like COVID. It just seemed to happen as I started painting. Crows clean up a mess so it’s a cleansing thing, but a thing of hope, acknowledging the forces of life and death.”

Museum collections and exhibits manager Elizabeth Wetterstroem described the works “as if he’s gone into his own world with new creatures and scenery.” She added the Museum encourages support of local artists and new bodies of work.

The exhibition is just one of the many projects Catrow has going on, which is how he likes it, including three books in various stages of production and a couple of film projects, confessing he loves the “controlled chaos.”

“I don’t think I’ll ever stop. I’ll keep going until they find me one morning slumped over my drawing board,” he said, laughing.

Events tying into the exhibition will be announced at a later date. For more of Catrow’s work including his political cartoons, go to his official site (www.catrow.com) or Facebook page.

The exhibition runs through Feb. 28. The Museum, located at 107 Cliff Park Rd., is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays and 12:30-4:30 p.m. Sundays.

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