New 'Enchanted' exhibit at Flint Institute of Arts explores the enigmatic genre of fantasy

FLINT, Michigan — Art can often feel like an escape from an everyday, mundane existence as fantasy literature found in novels, comics, games, and magazines can create an entire world of make-believe. With the Flint Institute of Arts (FIA)’s current exhibit, Enchanted: A History of Fantasy Illustration, museum attendees can experience a portal into a whole new world.

On display now through Jan. 8, Enchanted displays 104 artworks from 88 different artists, showcasing artists’ imaginations and bringing to life otherwise impossible realities. Rachael Holstege, the associate curator at the FIA, puts together temporary exhibits and installations in the museum’s permanent collection galleries. 

“This exhibition explores how artists from long ago to the present have brought to life the ancient myths, epics, folklore, and contemporary fantasy stories,” said Holstege. “Many works in this exhibition are illustration art, images created to accompany texts of various genres, including short stories, novels, comics, games, and magazines. Other images were not created specifically as illustrations but were inspired by the textual sources of mythology, fairy tales, and fantasy literature.”

The exhibit is broken down into four sections: adventure, storytelling, good & evil, and Fantastical Normal Rockwell. The oldest work, an engraving by Hendrick Goltzius, dates back to 1589. The newest elements are pen and ink drawings by Mark Wheatley and Bob Layton from this year. 
Petar Meseldžija, Serbian, born 1965, Gandalf, 1999, Oil on canvas, 28 x 20 in., On Loan from the Bantly Collection © Petar Meseldžija.
Various mediums include oil and acrylic painting, engraving, etching, drawing, watercolor, and digital prints. The exhibition was curated by the Curator of Exhibitions at the Norman Rockwell museum, Jesse Kowalski, and was on view from June 12 through Oct. 31 of last year. Most recently, the exhibit was on view from May 20 through Sept. 4 at the Hunter Museum of American Art. 

Holstege hopes the exhibit can give museum visitors a new appreciation and understanding of the genre of fantasy, which has been long overlooked by scholars and the public. The artwork helps create a sort of portal to an alternate world, something she says many people enjoy. 

“I think people are drawn to this subject because of the escape from reality it allows us to have,” she said. “These creatures and scenarios don’t exist in reality so our mind takes us to another place to imagine these things.”

The family-friendly exhibit includes pieces that will be familiar to all ages, featuring elements of fairy tales including Beauty and the Beast, Little Red Riding Hood, comics including Superman and Wonderwoman, Greek/Roman Mythology including Hercules, role-playing games including Dungeons & Dragons, and contemporary books including “Lord of the Rings,” and “Game of Thrones.” 

Recognizable artists include Norman Rockwell, Greg Hildebrandt, Gustave Doré, Rockwell Kent, Gary Gianni, James Gurney, and Tony DiTerlizzi. Some new and up-and-coming artists include Miranda Meeks, Veronica Fish, Tyler Jacobson, and Scott Brundage. 

The Flint Institute of Arts is open Monday through Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m.

Admission is free for FIA members and Genesee County residents, $10 for adults, free for children 12 and under, $8 for students with ID, and for seniors. Admission is free for everyone on Saturday, courtesy of Huntington Bank.
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Read more articles by Sarah Spohn.