Apr 25, 2019
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Darlene Wendels / The Collegian The museum displays the artist’s original paintings, illustrations and sketches from his children’s book, “Moy Moy.” The grand opening for the exhibit took place Friday, Jan. 23.

Through the child’s eye: A local children author’s work celebrated in exhibition

By Cassandra Sandoval

Darlene Wendels / The Collegian The museum displays the artist’s original paintings, illustrations and sketches from his children’s book, “Moy Moy.” The grand opening for the exhibit took place Friday, Jan. 23.

Darlene Wendels / The Collegian
The museum displays the artist’s original paintings, illustrations and sketches from his children’s book, “Moy Moy.” The grand opening for the exhibit took place Friday, Jan. 23.

Leo Politi, a local artist whose illustrations and children’s books celebrate diversity, was remembered in an exhibit at the Fresno Art Museum on Friday.

Born in Fresno in 1908 and passing in 1996, he was internationally recognized and won awards for his illustrations and stories.

Politi was raised and educated in Italy and moved back to Los Angeles when he was in his early 20s.

Illustrations from “Moy Moy,” Politi’s classic Chinese-American children’s book were displayed throughout the exhibit. The book is centered on a close group of immigrants during a traditional Chinese New Year celebration in Los Angeles’ Chinatown.

The Friends of the Politi Branch Library presented the exhibit, and it also displayed multiple works from other artists. Members of the museum and the public were invited to the opening of the winter/spring 2015 exhibition to celebrate his life’s work.

“It is the first night that all of the exhibitions have been opened,” said Kristina Hornback, the Fresno Art Museum associate curator.

“He was an award-winning author of children’s books,” Hornback said.

Hornback said, the Politi Branch Library is one of the few county libraries that was named after a person rather than a location.

Politi liked to write about different cultures and the neighborhoods that he lived in, Hornback added.

Denise Sciandra said Politi has a garden named after him at Fresno State. It is located outside of the Henry Madden Library on campus.

“I had talked with Politi’s son and daughter, and they had mosaic tiles of their father’s that had been on the sidewalk in front of his house,” Sciandra said. “I was always kind of trying to think how we might use them.”

Sciandra said that Politi had a love for children, nature and flowers and thought that the garden was perfect for him, and it seemed like a good idea. Sciandra added that the garden that took 10 years to complete also recognized the friendship between Politi and Arne Nixon who was a children’s literature professor at Fresno State.

The garden has recently received an award from the California Garden Club that will be presented on Feb. 3 in the garden.

“For me, you know it’s been a real labor of love because I admire both of those men so much,” Sciandra said. “They both have made such a contribution to children’s literacy, and it’s just perfect.”

Jackie Sarkisian, a retired teacher, encountered Politi at a book festival and had her own copy of “Moy Moy” autographed with his signature and a painting on what was once a blank page.

“Leo took a lot of books home that were purchased, and so mine was one of many that went with him,” Sarkisian said.

Sarkisian said, Politi was a sweet and gentle man who loved animals, which he put in many of his books.

“Children’s authors are a little more — they are not childish; they’re more childlike,” Sarkisian said.  “You know they see things with maybe a child’s eye, and that’s what makes their stories so special.”

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