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2014 ‘Wonderland’ takes Lewis Carroll into digital age

Andrew Woodham captures the top award with Lewis Carroll collage

Gaskill_Tysonby Tyson Gaskill
"Wonderland Abound"
After the awards were handed out, a crowd enjoyed "Wonderland Unbound." (USC Photo/Noe Montes)

For the third year in a row, USC graduate student Andrew Woodham took first prize in the USC Libraries’ Wonderland Award competition. His submission “Lewis Carroll Through Two Lenses” is a photographic collage and meditation on the complex life and career of C.L. Dodgson, the author more commonly known as Lewis Carroll.

Judges chose the 3-foot by 4-foot collage-and-LED work from a field of 49 submissions by students from USC and other participating institutions.

Woodham, a PhD candidate at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, accepted the award at a ceremony in Doheny Memorial Library on April 17. His win marks the first time a student has earned the top prize three times.

Woodham’s entry combined 254 images taken by Carroll to recreate a likeness from a self-portrait the photographer made when he was 23. Adding another layer to the piece, the Plexiglas protecting the work is painted with invisible ink, which, under illumination from a black light, reveals an image of the Dodo character from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

According to Woodham’s accompanying artist statement, “When he would introduce himself, his stutter would lead him to accidentally say ‘Do-do-dodgson.’ Therefore, the invisible image of the Dodo on top of Dodgson is a way to see him as he possibly saw himself.”

The judges awarded a total of five prizes — three more than planned. Two other submitters are three-peat honorees: Styles Akira took second place this year with his illustrated story “The Lunatic Cavalcade,” and Lindsey Jones earned the JubJub Prize with her multipiece travelogue “The Seven Wonderlands of the World.” Joining them were Katina Mitchell and Andrew Rinehard, who earned the Snicker-snack Prize for their film New World Jabberwocky and Rachel Victor, who won the Boojum Prize for “MischMasch: A Tangled Tale,” which explores the intersection of Carroll’s invention of nyctography and fondness for word puzzles.

An inspiration for creative expression

In welcoming the crowd to the ceremony, Dean Catherine Quinlan recognized the support of USC alumnus George Cassady and his wife, Linda, in building the collection and establishing the award.

“The Cassadys, the collection and the limitless talents of the students they inspire — those are the reasons we have a 10-year tradition to celebrate,” Quinlan said. “The work you’ve seen here tonight will join all of the submissions from the previous nine years in our special collections. It is a tremendous research resource, a great inspiration for creative expression and a wellspring of Carrollian whimsy like no other in the world.”

Several distinguished judges assessed the submissions: Wonderland Award founder Linda Cassady; Francis Bonahon, chair of the mathematics department at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences; Institute for Figuring co-director Margaret Wertheim; Richard Hatem, writer/producer for the TV series Once Upon a Time, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland and Grimm; and USC Game Innovation Lab employees Sean Bouchard MFA ’11 and Elizabeth Swensen MFA ’11, who jointly entered the contest in 2010.

The Wonderland Award is an annual multidisciplinary competition showcasing the creative and interpretive talents of students from USC and other Southern California institutions as they transform the life and writing of Carroll into new creative and scholarly works. All student submissions become a permanent part of the G. Edward Cassady, M.D., and Margaret Elizabeth Cassady, R.N., Lewis Carroll collection, which George Cassady donated to the USC Libraries in 2000 and from which students draw inspiration and raw material for their Wonderland entries.

Following the awards, the crowd made its way to the front of Doheny Library for “Wonderland Unbound,” a two-hour program sponsored by USC’s Visions and Voices initiative. Works from the Cassady Lewis Carroll Collection and digital animations by students at the USC School of Cinematic Arts were projected onto the library’s facade, accompanied by music, while live costumed characters from Carroll’s books mingled in the crowd.

Quinlan surprised the 500 people in attendance — and the Cassadys themselves — by revealing that USC Libraries recently acquired at auction a previously unpublished letter by Dodgson wherein he discusses the downside to the fame he had achieved in his lifetime. A gift from USC Trustee Wallis Annenberg supported the acquisition.

Next year’s Wonderland ceremony will coincide with worldwide celebrations planned in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

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