‘I Know A Man’

  • A new documentary about children’s book author Ashley Bryan will be shown at the Peterborough Community Theatre on May 1. COURTESY PHOTO

Thursday, April 27, 2017 11:40AM

Fans of children’s book phenomenon Ashley Bryan will be thrilled to learn that the new documentary about this 93 year-old American artist is coming to Peterborough. Presented by the Mariposa Museum, a long-time advocate of Bryan’s work.

“I Know A Man...Ashley Bryan” (73 min.) will screen at the Peterborough Community Theatre on May 1 at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $10.

Poet and illustrator of more than 50 children’s books, Ashley Bryan is also a painter and sculptor of magical puppets made from found objects inspired by his African heritage and of stained glass windows made from sea glass gathered on the shores of Maine’s Cranberry Isles, where he has lived for decades. His stunning block prints of black American spirituals are on permanent exhibit at the Mariposa Museum in Peterborough.

But it is Bryan’s effusive spirit and near child-like positivity that endear him, as much as his creative work to fans and friends alike. This recent documentary by Richard Kane and Robert Shetterly captures Ashley Bryan in all of these facets.

Bryan, who at 93 still publishes a book a year, has used art his entire life to celebrate joy, mediate the darkness of war and racism, explore the mysteries of faith, and create loving community. His life story as well as his mind boggling art are an inspiration to people of all ages.

The film opens with Bryan reciting a portion of his hilarious recent book, “Can’t Scare Me,” to awestruck children. Soon after, it delves into the horrors Ashley experienced in World War II.

“When you experience the tremendous carnage,” he asks, “Why does man choose war ... that destroys everything you’ve built up?”

The film explores his childhood world as an African-American experiencing racism from early on when his father, who emigrated from Antigua, “was given the mop and broom,” a reference to the 1943 Gordon Parks photograph. He quotes Marian Anderson, admonishing, “to keep another down you have to hold them down, and then therefore cannot rise and soar to the potential within you.”

“I Know a Man...Ashley Bryan is an important film about a truly unique American artist and human being who is a rare presence in our world,” said Mariposa Museum Director Karla Hostetler. “His story will touch people of all ages. He has an extraordinary ability to make you laugh and feel lighthearted, before you realize he just said something that changes the way you see the world forever.”

For further information, please visit www.mariposamuseum.org.