Baltimore—The Walters Art Museum will host the playful and interactive world of best-selling author and photographic illustrator Walter Wick in the exhibition Walter Wick: Games, Gizmos and Toys in the Attic on view Sept. 19, 2010–Jan. 2, 2011. Wick is the creator of the Can You See What I See? series and co-creator, with writer Jean Marzollo, of the I Spy books for children. Wick’s books challenge readers to solve visual riddles or puzzles created from the thousands of props he has collected in his renovated firehouse studio. His photographic style, one of precision and detail, will alter the viewer’s sense of visual perception.

This exhibition will consist of 55 large-scale photographs selected from Wick’s books and six models used to craft some of the images as well as behind-the-scenes video clips to help visitors understand how Wick creates the images in his books. Walter Wick: Games, Gizmos and Toys in the Attic is the first museum retrospective of award-winning author and photographic illustrator Walter Wick. Author of Can You See What I See? and co-creator of the I Spy book series loved by millions of children and adults around the world, Wick has a keen interest in puzzles, games, science and illusions. The exhibition will feature a selection of Wick’s early photographs, which provided a foundation for the artist’s interest in illusions. It will also include several of the handcrafted, meticulously detailed, installation models accompanied by his large-format color photographs that are the illustrations from his children’s books. Together they will provide a behind-the-scenes look at the artist’s creative process and a window into the puzzles and illusions for which he is so well known.

“The photographs will be enlarged to five or six feet wide with details, colors and tones not possible in book reproductions,” says Wick, noting that the exhibition will present a “playful sense of scale, space and the unexpected.” He honed his skills while working in a commercial studio for several years, experimenting with mirrors, time exposures, multiple exposures, photo composites and other tricks. “Some 30 years later, all the techniques, tinkering and experiments are folded into my work,” Wick comments.

A very special component of this Walters exhibition will be photographs and a model from Wick’s book Can You See What I See? On a Scary Scary Night, which was inspired by the museum’s Chamber of Wonders galleries. In this adaptation of the classic folktale In a Dark, Dark Wood, Wick has taken his photographic technique to new levels in a bold search-and-find book that combines spooky folktales, clever rhymes and stunning images. Can You See What I See? On a Scary Scary Night takes readers on a hair-raising journey through a creepy town all the way to the highest tower in an eerie old castle.

“The Walters’ exhibition will also include the never-before-seen four feet by seven feet Jolly Roger model pirate ship from Wick’s newest book Can You See What I See? Treasure Ship. The model will be accompanied by five large scale photographs from the same book,” said exhibition curator Jacqueline Copeland.

The exhibition at the Walters Art Museum is made possible through the generosity of The Wieler Family Foundation. Additional support is provided by The Women’s Committee of the Walters Art Museum, The CANUSA Corporation Charitable Fund, The David and Barbara B. Hirschhorn Foundation, The Nancy Patz Reading Fund, The Van Dyke Family Foundation, The Linehan Family Foundation/The Ivy Bookstore, Meredith and Adam Borden/The London Foundation, Lynn and Philip Rauch, Mr. and Mrs. Austin George, The Susan Katzenberg Fund and Kate and David Powell.

Walter Wick: Games, Gizmos and Toys in the Attic is organized by the New Britain Museum of American Art.

Walter Wick’s Background

Walter Wick draws on the picture book tradition to weave together stories, puzzles and optical games in a way that invites the playful interaction of his audience with pictures and words. His visual puzzles tantalize readers—of all ages—honing observation skills and encouraging a creative and complex relationship between language and image. Starting with a concept for a series of images that will ultimately form a book, Wick collaborates with model makers and scene artists to construct individual compositions that are then photographed. The whimsical objects that populate his photographs come from the vast collection of beads, clips, shells, game pieces, plastic animals and more that fills his studio.

Wick began his career in the 1970s photographing products for catalogs and advertising. An interest in puzzles and optical illusions led him to work for Games magazine in the 1980s. Wick’s playful photographs of toys and household objects came to the attention of veteran writer and editor, Jean Marzollo, and in 1991 the two collaborated on I Spy: A Book of Picture Riddles. Since that time, they have co-authored more than 20 I Spy books. Wick also pursued his own creative ideas with the camera resulting in A Drop of Water: A Book of Science and Wonder, Optical Tricks and the Can You See What I See? series.

Admission and Hours

Museum hours are Wednesday-Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Walter Wick: Games, Gizmos and Toys in the Attic is a special ticketed exhibition. General admission to the Walters’ permanent collection is free. Tickets will be available at the museum box office throughout the exhibition, or online beginning in August.

 Special Exhibition Admission

  • $10 Adults
  • $8 Seniors
  • $6 Students/young adults (18–25)
  • FREE for 17 and under
  • FREE for Members

The Walters Art Museum

The Walters Art Museum is located in downtown Baltimore’s historic Mount Vernon Cultural District at North Charles and Centre streets and is one of only a few museums worldwide to present a comprehensive history of art from the third millennium B.C. to the early 20th century. Collection highlights include Egyptian mummies, Renaissance suits of armor, Fabergé eggs, Art Nouveau jewelry and old master paintings. Among its thousands of treasures, the Walters holds the finest collection of ivories, jewelry, enamels and bronzes in America and a spectacular reserve of illuminated manuscripts and rare books. The Walters’ Egyptian, Greek and Roman, Byzantine, Ethiopian and western medieval art collections are among the best in the nation, as are the museum’s holdings of Renaissance and Asian art. Every major trend in French painting during the 19th century is represented by one or more works in the Walters’ collection.