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Mare Blocker and Reeta Tollefson’s Tale’s End is based on Aesop’s Fables but the viewer may be hard pressed to tell which ones these are. The text is apparently taken from the morals of the stories, but some are just delightfully weird, for instance, “Yet, Some Fashions Have No Better Reason.”

The black and white illustrations in the ten woodcuts are done in a deceptively simplified graphic style that emphasizes the wood grain’s texture and an exuberant line. Reminiscent of the playful works of the artist Paul Klee, whimsical details abound. The book’s cover shows an expressive face with a stegosaurus-like hairdo or headdress. In one wonderful and fantastical image, a huge-headed creature that might have started life as a tree before morphing into an astonishing behemoth holds a tiny bed occupied by an alarmed child. On the adjoining page is the apt text “Imaginary Fears are the Worst.” The same adjacency of monumental to minute is echoed on every spread, juxtaposing each large full-page woodcut on the right with the miniscule text on the left.

In “The Story Depends on the Teller,” a looping line runs through the divided page, appearing black against white in the upper half and converting to white as it wends its way into the lower black section. A variety of dingbats are attached to the line like ornaments on a Christmas tree. The line emanates from the mouth of a face in the upper right corner. Or does it originate from the less distinctly-drawn mouth at the lower left? With the help of title, the wandering line could be seen as a figurative storyline representing two voices telling their own versions of the same story. The various pictographic details dotting the line illustrate that the story does indeed depend on the teller.






These ten books are vastly diverse, but they share a common quality. Each one compels the viewer to ask, “What is going on here?” and perhaps tempts him or her to answer the question with a response based on a preconceived notion or assumption. In an interview about her study of Greek vase imagery, Professor Topper noted that “what actually happened and what they [the Athenians] thought happened could be two very different things.” These books echo the idea that what might appear to be true may not be. With the evidence at hand in the form of text and an abundance of visual cues, we need only to push aside our assumptions and look for the truth in what lies before us.

Tale’s End
Mare Blocker and Reeta Tollefson

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