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"Dinotopia: The Fantastical Art of James Gurney" on view at The Arkell Museum
James Gurney, Irish Elk, 2005. Illustration for Dinotopia: Journey to Chandara. Oil on Board.
CANAJOHARIE, NY.- James Gurney’s Dinotopia brings the worlds of science and the imagination to life by chronicling Arthur and Will Denison's remarkable experiences on a lost island in vibrant color and meticulous detail. Recounted in words and pictures in the best-selling book series, Dinotopia: A Land Apart From Time (1992), Dinotopia: The World Beneath (1995), and Dinotopia: First Flight (1999), the artist’s compelling tale has engaged and enchanted readers by inviting them to explore the far reaches of a mysterious destination. Waterfall City, the island’s center of learning, The Hatchery, birthplace of many of Dinotopia’s prehistoric inhabitants, and The Forbidden Mountains, where dinosaurs dare not venture, are just a few of the places described in Arthur Denison’s fictional journal and in the outstanding works on view.

Inspired by a deep and abiding interest in archaeology, lost civilizations, and the art of illustration, James Gurney invites viewers to enter a fantastical world in which dinosaurs and humans live side-by-side. His luminous paintings, beautifully crafted drawings and hand-made models, which are featured in this exhibition, explore the wonders of the distant past through the lens of the imagination.

The Dinotopia storyline chronicles the adventures and remarkable experiences of Professor Arthur Denison and his son Will on Dinotopia, a mysterious "lost" island inhabited by dinosaurs and shipwrecked travelers. The faraway land of Dinotopia—wholly the product of Gurney's fertile imagination, scientific knowledge and meticulous artistic ability—is a civilization like no other. The society has its own language, alphabet (dinosaur footprints that correspond to each letter of the Roman alphabet), colorful festivals and parades. The lively cast of characters includes the inquisitive Professor Denison; Will and Sylvia, the adventurous young Skybax riders-in-training; the devious curmudgeon Lee Crabb; the beautiful musician Oriana Nascava; and a multilingual, diplomatic Protoceratops named Bix.

The Man Behind Dinotopia
James Gurney lives with his family in New York State's Hudson Valley. He was born on June 14, 1958, in Glendale, California. As a young boy, he found it difficult to find books on dinosaurs, a subject that always captivated him. A childhood museum visit provided his first encounter with the skeleton of a formidable Allosaurus, leading him to imagine the dinosaur skeletons "stepping off of their platforms and tiptoeing through the hallways at night," returning to their post by daybreak.

Gurney's youthful daydreams inspired an interest in archaeology and lost civilizations. The artist recalls many hours spent excavating his suburban backyard for arrowheads and "even a lost temple." During college he majored in anthropology at the University of California at Berkeley, where he received a B.A. in 1979 with Phi Beta Kappa honors. From there he went on to pursue his lifelong interest in art, studying illustration at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, where he met his wife Jeanette, also an artist, who shared his love for sketching outdoors.

A cross-country trip with a friend resulted in The Artist's Guide to Sketching (1982). During his early career he painted jungle and volcano backdrops for animator Ralph Bakshi's Fire and Ice (1983) and became interested in the fantasy genre. His art soon appeared on the covers of science fiction and fantasy novels but his big break as an illustrator came from National Geographic magazine with a series of challenging assignments working with scientists and historians to recreate ancient worlds. Gurney's secret dream was to discover a lost city as significant as Troy or Machu Picchu and so, in his spare time, he envisioned and painted Waterfall City and Dinosaur Parade, which inspired the conceptual framework for Dinotopia.

His first Dinotopia book, the New York Times bestseller Dinotopia: A Land Apart From Time, appeared in 18 languages in more than 30 countries and sold two million copies. Gurney has written and illustrated three other volumes in the series, Dinotopia: The World Beneath and Dinotopia: First Flight. A fourth volume, Dinotopia: Journey To Chandara was published in the fall of 2007. In 2002, Hallmark Entertainment produced a lavish television miniseries for ABC TV based on the Dinotopia books that received record-setting ratings and an Emmy award for best visual effects.



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December 28, 2013

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"Dinotopia: The Fantastical Art of James Gurney" on view at The Arkell Museum

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