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The hats in the Fingerhut

'Hats Off to Dr. Seuss!' exhibit at Laguna Beach gallery will feature actual hats from Seuss' collection as well as reproductions of his original artwork.

May 16, 2013|By Rhea Mahbubani
  • Dr. Suess' "Martini Bird" figures prominently in the Fingerhut Gallery, where visitors come in for a look at the gallery's new installation "Hats Off to Dr. Suess!" on Thursday.
Dr. Suess' "Martini Bird" figures prominently… (Don Leach, Coastline…)

Dr. Seuss kept two secrets under lock and key — his hat and art collections.

Born Theodor Seuss Geisel in Springfield, Mass., he became a household name and national icon for his colorful illustrations and jaunty rhymes. But only his wife Audrey and their closest friends knew about Seuss' clandestine art or the whereabouts of his hats — hidden in a library closet of their La Jolla estate.

The "Hats Off to Dr. Seuss!" touring exhibition is making a pitstop in Fingerhut Gallery of Laguna Beach from Friday through June 2. Viewers can survey 26 hats, from a collection of more than 150, as well as limited-edition reproductions of Seuss' original artwork.

Bill Dreyer, 52, curator for the show, will fly in from Chicago for opening-day festivities from 6 to 9 p.m., at which time he will unveil the little-known collections.

"Some of my favorite moments are when people come to the exhibition with crazy, wonderful, wacky Seussian hats on," he said. "People come in thinking they know a lot about Dr. Seuss, and they learn about the 'secret art' and this other dimension of his artwork that they never knew about, that they'd never seen before, and they really are completely delighted."

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Seuss often worked late into the night creating paintings and sculptures over a 70-year period. While these elaborately imagined concoctions were conceived for his personal enjoyment, and were rarely, if ever, viewed during Seuss' lifetime, they reveal the artist's "more grown-up side," he said.

"This body of work expresses a very personal side of Ted Geisel, which is how he was known among his friends and colleagues," Dreyer said. "They fully reveal his artistic legacy."

Dreyer, who has been involved in the art world for 43 years, found himself in New York City's International Art Exposition in 1997. There, he happened across the "Art of Dr. Seuss" exhibition, which, with the support of Seuss' widow, was being showcased for the first time.

Completely taken by the talent on display, Dreyer made an on-the-spot decision to one day work with the collection. He came on board the Chase Art Companies three years later and has curated the exhibition ever since.

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