The Mansion on O Street’s Delightful ‘Through the Looking Glass’
By December 4, 2023 0 886•
The Mansion on O Street is currently running an exhibit, “Through the Looking Glass,” dedicated to the world of English poet and author Lewis Carroll (“Alice in Wonderland,” “Through the Looking Glass”). The exhibit gives visitors the opportunity to explore the secret gardens where new sculptures by London-based Robert James Studio are installed.
Founder of the O Museum in the Mansion H.H. Leonards is a lifetime trustee and board member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The board’s annual retreat this year was in London during the famous Chelsea Flower Show. “The Chelsea Flower Show is enormous with 100,000 people per day and 550 exhibitors spread out over three acres,” Leonards said. “Karma does exist, because like a savant, somewhere in the maze of this huge show, we found Alice, the Barefoot King, the Mad Hatter and more.”
On the spot, Leonards and her husband Ted Spero asked sculptor James Coplestone to exhibit at the O Museum in the Mansion. Not missing a beat, Coplestone and his wife Karen enthusiastically agreed. “That’s how our adventure began,” Leonards added.
Carroll, who was partially deaf, had a stutter and was epileptic, was able to write 11 mathematical books and 14 fantasy stories 150 years ago that still are studied and read today.
“The exhibit embodies the simple truth, no matter what your circumstances are, you can rise above the adversity and influence future generations with perseverance, love and hope,” Leonards said. “This exhibit and partnership with the Coplestones align so perfectly with our mission,” Leonards added. “It embodies who we are and what we are about.”
Coplestone’s early work was not too different from Carroll’s. He trained as a book illustrator and early in his career, illustrated nine titles. “Storytelling is a passion for me,” he said. “As a child being read a story ignited my imagination and at the same time a feeling of being loved was experienced.”
Coplestone prefers the illustrations of “Alice in Wonderland” by Sir John Tenniel as the quintessential images of Carroll’s literary masterpiece. The book has been illustrated by various artists over 100 times, but Coplestone said nothing compares to Tenniel’s for the illustrations’ “sheer strength of character and personality.”
The Alice drawings were a beginning for Robert James’s Workshop. The sales that were created quickly allowed for lesser-known characters (and eventually investments from estates like Beatrix Potter’s, the Thelwell Estate and even Netflix).
“We are lucky to work with such beautiful works of art,” Coplestone said.
When visitors enter the exhibit, they will be greeted by a life-sized Queen of Hearts, the Mad Hatter and Alice in Wonderland. Throughout the exhibit, both inside the galleries and outside in a secret garden, expect to find Pooh Bear and Piglet, the White Rabbit and more.
The O Museum is unique — it has 112 different ceilings and nearly 90 secret doors. Leonards said the doors are not easy to find, and most end up discovering three, however, 22 were found at one point. “Secret doors reignite the wonder in all of us,” Leonards said. “They encourage us to let go of our inhibitions and allow us to open up, explore, and tap into our own potential.”
Stick around to discover other museum gems like a running shoe by Allyson Felix, the most decorated female Olympian in track and field, and guitars signed by Bono, Bruce Springsteen and Britney Spears.
“We are a non-profit museum that offers an experiential experience like no other,” Leonards said. “We are a designated historic site on the African American Heritage Trail and our museum proceeds go to support our social justice and arts programs.”
More information on The Mansion on O Street and the museum can be found at: https://www.omuseum.org/visit.