Alice in Audubonland

Wonderland Award

(Seen above: The Flora and Fauna of Wonderland [as inspired by the work of John James Audubon] by Lillian Murtonen)

A senior in USC Dornsife won first prize at USC Libraries’ Wonderland Award reception on Wednesday, April 26, capping off the first day of the Encountering Alice in Japan conference hosted in Doheny Memorial Library. Lillian Murtonen’s submission, The Flora and Fauna of Wonderland, took as a point of departure both Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland tales and The Vanishing Worlds of Audubon exhibit, currently on view in Doheny Memorial Library. She utilized the AI-based image-generating program Midjourney, provided by the USC Libraries' Ahmanson Lab along with close analysis of character descriptions and artistic styles to produce the striking artworks of classic Wonderland characters in a style reminiscent of Audubon’s landmark Birds of America.


Second prize went to Willow Edge, a senior from the USC School of Dramatic Arts, for her 3-D hand-cut mirrored mushroom garden titled Outside of and Through the Looking Glass. Inspired by Carroll’s characters and his love of logic puzzles, Edge said in her artist’s statement: “My piece begs the viewer to see both the facts and the underlying beauty simultaneously by looking through the mirror and seeing a reflection of new parts of the world.”


A whimsically not-so-surprising third award was also announced: the Bellman’s Prize, funded for the past few years by the Dean of the USC Libraries, is named after one of the characters in Carroll’s nonsense poem “The Hunting of the Snark” and recognizes creative risk-taking in a student work. This year, USC Roski School of Art senior Natalie Williams earned the prize for her short film Masks of Madness. Natalie researched historic dolls and costumes in the Cassady Collection in creating her innovative commentary on the “masks” the characters in the two Alice books wear then discard throughout the tales.


Several judges in addition to award sponsor Linda Cassady assessed the Wonderland Award submissions: newly appointed USC Libraries Carrollian Fellow Franziska Kohlt; poet and USC professor of English, Molly Bendall; USC professor of Architecture Amy Murphy; and Lewis Carroll Society of North America board member Amy Plummer.


The Wonderland Award is an annual competition, established in 2005 by USC Libraries Board of Councilors member Linda Cassady, showcasing the interpretive talents of students from USC and other Southern California institutions as they transform the life and works of Lewis Carroll into new creative and scholarly works. The student submissions will all eventually become part of the USC Digital Library.