Curator Jeff Cason offers us a look inside Experience 41: OZ at ESMoA.
Interview edited by Maureen Kingsley
The city of El Segundo is tiny but mighty: so many creative people and enterprises are stuffed into our five square miles. Among these are local entrepreneur Jeff Cason, CEO and Creative Producer of Sound Stage LIVE and member of the city’s Arts & Culture Advisory Committee. Jeff is the curator of ESMoA’s newest exhibit, Experience 41: OZ.
Here, in his own words, Jeff shares some details of the OZ experience and some interesting background about the stories that inspired it.
The El Segundo Scene (TESS): Introduce us to ESMoA’s newest experience, which you have curated.
Jeff Cason (JC): Experience 41: OZ at ESMoA is a celebration of the art of Oz, a uniquely American fairy tale that has rippled through our culture for more than 120 years, inspiring countless books, films, Broadway shows like “The Wiz” and “Wicked,” high fashion, and pop culture—making an indelible impact on people of all generations. We wanted to go to the source, L. Frank Baum’s book that started it all, The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz, and show how more than a century of culture has poured out from this single text, and how we’re still captivated by Baum’s story today, so many years later.
TESS: What types of artwork can visitors to OZ expect to see?
JC: This exhibit will feature art and artifacts from the original book and its inspired stories. On display will be original illustrations from L. Frank Baum’s books, including drawings by W. W. Denslow and John R. Neill from the turn of the century. There were 40 books written in total, and many stories and characters that were introduced in the texts were not featured in the 1939 film. All 40 of the books will be on display. We’re excited to highlight art that represents these characters in the expanded universe of Oz.
We’ll also feature beautiful collectors’ pieces, from a 1921 “Wonderful Game of Oz” board game to the first-edition sheet music for “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” to replica ruby slippers from the 1985 film Return To Oz.
Experience 41: OZ will feature original art as well. Renowned L.A. artist Aiseborn is creating five magnificent murals that depict famous locations in Oz, including the poppy fields [pictured here and on this issue’s cover], the yellow-brick road, Emerald City, Munchkinland, and the witch’s castle. The murals stand up to 15 feet high and let guests experience each part of Oz from a unique perspective, whether seeing Munchkinland through Glinda’s bubble or the poppy fields from the point of view of a field mouse.
TESS: How did your collaboration with ESMoA come about?
JC: I’ve always been a big fan of ESMoA and their vision. Unlike traditional museums, they approach their space like an art lab, always exploring new ways to create and present visual art. It made for a perfect match, both of us excited to tell a unique story from popular culture that doesn’t often get featured in this way. I can’t speak highly enough of The ESMoA team and their commitment to bringing great art to our community.
TESS: What are you hoping visitors to OZ will take from the experience?
JC: Most people know the film The Wizard Of Oz but have never experienced its origin. We’re excited for the community to come see the whole story of Oz—the amazing collection of art that has originated from this 120-year-old classic, and the art that continues to be created and celebrated today.
OZ at ESMoA: Opens June 13, runs through Sept. 21
Top: Aiseborn | Dorothy In the Poppies | Acrylic on watercolor paper board | 2019 Bottom: Aiseborn | Sketch of the Emerald City | Crayon on Paper | 2019
Photo of Jeff Cason by Sarah Ainsworth Photography
This story appears in the June 2019 issue.