For the past year and a half, Salt Lake Community College film professor Tyler Smith and artist-author Elise Zoller have been working together to tell the story behind one of Zoller’s books.
Zoller recruited Smith to produce a documentary about “The Tale of Oramus and Jane” and the illustrations that bring the book to life. The film was part of a multimedia exhibit that was on display earlier this month in the George S. & Dolores Doré Eccles Art Gallery at South City Campus.
“The Tale of Oramus and Jane” focuses on a young girl who is terribly injured and the house finch that comes to her aid.
“The book is written with the idea of helping kids understand the concept of death and overcome a fear of it that we all have,” Zoller says. “It’s not just kids [who have questions about death], it’s all of us … and the book deals with that topic, but from a fictional perspective of this girl and the bird that is sent to heal her.”
Last summer, Zoller taught art classes to children aged 10 to 12 at the Glendale Public Library. These students came up with many of the illustrations seen in her book.
“She wanted to write a book and have the kids of that target audience help illustrate, after they’d read the story,” Smith says.
Unique artwork reveals unique perspectives
In the class, Zoller developed a concept called the “children’s healing garden” which allowed her young students to share their own interpretations of death through artistic expression.
“The class actually was designed to teach kids how to do their own artwork and explore their own feelings about the subject or about the book, but also be able to get their ideas out and their feelings out in artwork, which I think is a very healing process,” she says.
Zoller wanted to record the process on film as a way to reach new audiences. She reached out to Smith about producing the documentary, and he quickly agreed to join the project.
“It just seemed like a natural extension of the original idea to sort of flesh it out more,” she says. “And a lot of people don’t spend enough time reading; they watch movies instead. So it’s sort of a nice complement to the whole concept. I think it really makes it [the book] broader.”
Zoller has created a website where readers can learn more about different the mediums that make up the book.