Author Blue Balliett talks about art and inspiration
With the delight of a child approaching a dandelion, Blue Balliett blew air on the "Red Petals" Alexander Calder mobile in the Arts Club of Chicago, her eyes twinkling as the heavy red pieces slowly drifted into a new spot. Balliett's first book, "Chasing Vermeer," won the Chicago Tribune Young Adult Book Prize in 2004. Her second novel, "The Wright 3," like her first was set in Hyde Park, but her latest book, "The Calder Game," published last week, takes young sleuths Calder, Petra and Tommy to a remote village in England, full of mazes and mystery. Balliett creates a world in which art is a sort of fairy dust that dramatizes mystery and coincidence, in a world full of imaginary codes and puzzles that enhance life.
Elizabeth Taylor talked about the making of "The Calder Game" and why art matters:
Q How did you decide to move the setting from Chicago for "The Calder Game"?
A On a book tour in 2005 my husband and I drove into this little village near Oxford, [England], and I got out of the car and looked at the main square in this little town. It was completely empty. I thought: "What would happen if they had a fantastic sculpture in their square? What would happen to the town?"
Q How did you figure out how to connect Chicago, Calder and England?
A I realized I could use this little village and thought: "OK, what is it going to feel like to move here from Chicago? What will it look like? What will a day look like?" And that was really interesting, because not only was the art going out of context, but the kids were. So I got really fascinated by the idea of what happens when you are small in quantity in a certain place. How do you live? And then in writing about Calder, I began thinking and writing about the metaphor of the mobile. And realized it was so perfect. The structure of the book then evolved.
Q You seem to see art as fun, but also a source for social good.
A I hid a lot of mobiles in the book. Character mobiles and idea mobiles. That was so much fun. I also just wanted to explore how powerful art can be when you take a piece of art and put it in a place where it is not supposed to be. What is it doing to things there? The whole community began to buzz. It was very upsetting to everybody, but then they saw it differently by the end of the book. How did this happen? That, to me, was very powerful.