How Yuko Shimizu’s Illustrations Transformed Michael Cunningham’s Vision

February 9, 2016

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Cunningham collaborated with MFA Illustration as Visual Essay faculty member and alumnus Yuko Shimizu (2003) on A Wild Swan and Other Tales (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015), which reimagines popular fairy tales. One of Shimizu’s illustrations from the book is part of SVA’s Women in Illustration exhibition, which features work by female MFA Illustration as Visual Essay alumni who have authored or illustrated books within the past year.  The exhibition is on view through March 3 at the SVA Gramercy Gallery, 209 East 23rd Street, New York City.

yukoswan735Cunningham recently shared with SVA Close Up his thoughts on how working with Shimizu changed how he thinks about writing:

Although the text of A Wild Swan and Other Tales was finished before Yuko Shimizu created the illustrations, it’s still a collaborative effort. I offered Yuko no suggestions, made no requests, before she started on her work. I simply asked her to produce the images that spoke most urgently to her.

Saying that I was thrilled with the results is a bit of an understatement.

The sinister beauty of Yuko’s illustrations, their mysterious mix of sensuality and menace, speak for themselves.

I can tell you, as well, that once Yuko’s illustrations had been paired with the stories, I saw the book simultaneously as two parallel collections of stories and as a single collection, interpreted two ways.

There are the written stories. And there are the drawn stories. Each is an image of the other, but each also possesses its own life, its own aesthetic, its own sense of the fantastical.

It is, for me, like seeing my own book translated into a language I understand but do not speak.

I can’t quite imagine writing another book without illustrations. I can’t, for that matter, quite imagine writing another book without Yuko’s illustrations.

Thank you, Yuko.

Michael Cunningham

January 12, 2016

A reception for “Women in Illustration” will take place on Wednesday, February 10 at the SVA Gramercy Gallery. For more information and the full list of participating artists, click here.

For an interview with Shimizu and more on her work, watch the video below:

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