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BOOKBEAT By CHERYL KELLY, Children’s Librarian Salem Public Library

July 19, 2009
Salem News

SALEM- Alexander Calder was perhaps the most innovative American sculptor of the 20th century. Born into a family of artists in July, 1898, this artist was responsible for developing a new method of sculpting with wire and introduced the mobile as a new art form. He also did outdoor sculptures made of bolted sheet steel.

Calder did not originally intend to become an artist. He first received an engineering degree but in 1923 he enrolled at the Art Students League. After graduating, he went to Paris and got a job with the National Police Gazette. One of his assignments was to cover the arrival of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus. This assignment fostered a lifelong interest in the circus which inspired his creation, the Cirque Calder. This manually manipulated work of art included miniature performers, animals, and props made from a variety of materials. Calder gave lengthy performances with his art to audiences in both Paris and the United States.

In 1931, he gave up mechanical art and concentrated on creating mobiles, relying on motion from air currents. He also did outdoor sculptures and abstract paintings during this period. Following his death in 1976, Calder was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

This unique artist is the subject of two books acquired by the Children's Department this past year. The first, a picture book biography by Tanya Lee, is called "Sandy's Circus." This book concentrates on the story of the creation of the Cirque Calder and how the artist was able to fit his work in five suitcases to create a traveling show that was in demand on both sides of the Atlantic. The second book is part of a series by Blue Balliett, called "The Calder Game." The third in this series about students at a University of Chicago Lab School in Hyde Park tells the story of Calder Pillay, who, while accompanying his father on a business trip to England, disappears along with a statue created by Alexander Calder. When his friends arrive in England to help find the missing student, it is their knowledge of Calder and their powers of observation that help them locate their missing friend.

Both of these books can be found in the Children's Department of Salem Public Library. They can be reserved on the library's website,



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