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Friday, July 11, 2008

The Birthday Girl

Those of you who read “The Pursuit of Happiness” might remember that Betsy and James work together at the end of the book to create silhouettes of figures made out of wood, which are then placed in the garden maze at the colonial village where Betsy works. I’ve never encountered free-standing wooden silhouettes in real life but was excited to come very very close when I read about this art project in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, a stone’s throw from where I live.

A guy made a wooden figure of his girlfriend and put it in Greenpoint, where his girlfriend used to live, so that people could snap photos with the her for her birthday. Cute, right? Read a little bit more about it here.

In the time since Pursuit was published, the question I’m most often asked about it is how I came up with the idea for Betsy to be a budding silhouette artist. It was basically because silhouettes of my family, made at Disney when I was kid, hung in our home for many years. I guess they made an impression. Somewhere along the way, I realized that silhouette art was really a colonial art form and since I was writing a book set in a colonial village...well, it just made sense. My Googling introduced me to the work of Kara Walker, the most (and possibly only?) famous contemporary silhouette artist and so Betsy’s passion was born.

And, no, I never actually tried to cut silhouettes while writing Pursuit. That’s the other question I get asked all the time. I was afraid I’d be really bad at it and that it would ruin the writing of the book for me. Sometimes things are better left to the imagination anyway...



Kelly Parra said...

What a cute story, Tara! Yeah, it's amazing the things we discover and add to our stories, and just make everything work. :)

Jenny O'Connell said...

We had those silhouettes done at Disney, too!!! I totally remember them hanging in the house. Maybe that's why I loved that you used them in Pursuit (which, for the billionth time, I loved).

Danielle Joseph said...

Tara, when I read the book I was so impressed with your knowledge of silhouette art. The details you put in the book were amazing--good job fooling me:)!