A freshman student in the USC Roski School of Fine Arts earned first prize at the 2022 USC Libraries Wonderland Award reception, held online on Friday, April 22, as part of a larger conference devoted to the Victorian polymath Lewis Carroll, author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Trenyce Tong’s miniature sculpture depicts a tableau of familiar Carrollian characters along with an illustrated guide to them, and features a visual style influenced by Alice illustrators Yayoi Kusama and Thomas Heath Robinson. In her accompanying artist statement, Tong described how seeing previous student entries inspired her to enter and acted “as a testament to the joy of adaptation.”
Second prize went to Thornton School of Music junior Autumn Fowler for In Memory of a Summer’s Day. The title of her musical composition harkens to Carroll’s original dedication of the Alice book to his young muse. Fowler’s nontraditional lyrical arrangement and inclusion of fluctuating tempos and time signatures pay tribute to Dodgson’s sense of whimsy. The collage art accompanying the song’s album cover was inspired by Victorian-era valentines.
As befitting a Carrollian event, two surprise awards were announced: the Bellman’s Prize—named after one of the characters in Carroll’s nonsense poem “The Hunting of the Snark” and which recognizes creative risk-taking in a student work—and the Pandemic Prize, for the submission most reflective of our current times. The former went to Thornton School of Music senior Aleyna Yim for her artful blending of Carrollian lyrics and K-pop music. The latter award went to literature and creative writing doctoral student Jianan Qian, with Wonderland during the Pandemic—a suite of ink-and-watercolor illustrations imagining what Wonderland might look like if Alice had visited during a pandemic.
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. All student submissions become a permanent part of the G. Edward Cassady, MD, and Margaret Elizabeth Cassady, RN, Lewis Carroll collection that Linda’s husband Dr. George Cassady ’55 donated to the USC Libraries in 2000 and from which students draw inspiration and raw material for their Wonderland entries.
The awards were the capstone to the first day of a virtual meeting of the Lewis Carroll Society of North America. The conference, with 300 registered attendees, included presentations by renowned Carrollian scholars from around the world discussing such topics as Alice and ballet; Carroll’s contributions to the field of logic; how Alice became involved with promoting the beer company Guinness; and Gothic Lolita representations of Alice. Three previous Wonderland Award entrants—Stylés Akira, Aroussiak Gabrielian, and Genevieve Kaplan—revisited their entries and discussed how their previous research for the competition continues to influence their professional lives. USC student Elea Zhong debuted a collection of haunting, constantly morphing images created by artificial intelligence, and based on existing illustrations from the Cassady Collection. The meeting also featured a digital experience for attendees to view the year’s Wonderland entries in an immersive environment built on the Mozilla Hubs platform by members of the USC Libraries Ahmanson Lab (3-D gallery) and (2-D version).
Several judges in addition to award sponsor Linda Cassady assessed the Wonderland Award submissions: Peter Hanff, former deputy director of UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library; poet and USC professor of English, Molly Bendall; USC professor of Architecture Amy Murphy; and the USC Libraries curator of the Cassady Lewis Carroll collection, Rebecca Corbett.
For more information about the award and the Cassady Lewis Carroll Collection, visit libraries.usc.edu/wonderland.