Covina library exhibit celebrated Leo Politi's life and work


By Claudia S. Palma, Staff Writer   San Gabriel Valley Tribune
Posted: 11/11/2009 09:00:00 PM PST

Artist and author Leo Politi's books available for checkout are on display during the "Celebrating the Life of an Artist" art and book exhibit of Leo Politi's work at the Covina Public Library on Saturday, Nov. 7. Politi visited the library many times and signed many of his books dedicating them to the children of the library.

It was kind of an early birthday party for artist and author Leo Politi.  "We missed his centennial (birthday) last year but we figured why not do it on the centennial-plus-one," said Fred Feldhein of the Covina Cultural Arts Advisory Commission. The commission and the Friends of the Covina Public Library sponsored the "Celebrating the Life of An Artist" art and book exhibit of Leo Politi's work on Saturday, Nov. 7, at the library.

Politi, who died in 1996 at the age of 88, would have turned 101 years old on Nov. 21. Young and old alike celebrated with self-guided tours of Politi's paintings and books on display, free activities for children and young artists, and a watercolor demonstration by Bob Orso. "We found these paintings stacked on the floor somewhere and thought we would put them up," said Feldhein. "We said we might as well have an event."  All the paintings, many with children and animals playing, were dedicated to "the children of the Covina Public Library - Leo Politi."  Politi had visited the library many times after he moved back to Los Angeles.

Baked goods and refreshments were also served during the celebration. Children's librarian Dominique McCafferty gave a small slide presentation on Politi's life story and read from two of his award-winning books. Special guest Mary Yan Joe was also present to read from Politi's book "Moy Moy," inspired by Yan Joe and her family. It was written and illustrated by Politi when she was just four years old.  "My parents had a gift shop in Chinatown and (Politi) used to come by with his dog and sketch the children playing," said Yan Joe, now 53. Politi enjoyed learning about various cultures and wrote and illustrated many books on people and families from different backgrounds. He became interested in the Chinese culture and based "Moy Moy," which means little sister in Chinese, on Yan Joe, her brothers and their experience on one Chinese New Year celebration.

As Yan Joe read the book, she taught the young audience how to say "Happy New Year" in Chinese: "Gung Hei Fat Choi," (pronounced gong hey fa choy).  When the story was done, Yan Joe showed pictures of herself with her three brothers and a signed illustration and dedicated first copy of "Moy Moy" to the Yan family.

Mary Yan Joe, shows pictures of her and her brothers when she was younger at the "Celebrating the Life of an Artist" art and book exhibit of Leo Politi's work at the Covina Public Library on Saturday, Nov. 7. Politi wrote and illustrated the book "Moy Moy" inspired by Mary Yan, her family and the Chinese New Year, when she was just 4 years old.        

(Claudia Palma / Staff Photographer)

"It was nice," said Jacqueline Falcon, 8 of Covina. "My favorite part was when the children couldn't see the dragon's tail during the Chinese New Year parade."  Yan Joe said Politi loved children and cultures.  "The thing is he made so many friends that all along the way during his life and he included them in his stories," said Yan Joe.

"He just put real life into his stories and the art work is beautiful."  Politi was born in Fresno to an Italian family and moved to Italy when he was just 8 years old. He constantly sketched and drew and eventually won a scholarship to an art school in Milan.  He wrote and illustrated more than 20 books in his lifetime, and drew and sketched many paintings and murals throughout Los Angeles, including one titled "Blessing of the Animals" on Olvera Street.

Children paint in the community room during the "Celebrating the Life of an Artist"
exhibit of Leo Politi's work at the Covina Public Library on Saturday, Nov. 7. 

(Claudia Palma / Staff Photographer)

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