Are Joey Garfield’s mounds made or found? Yes.
by Todd Hasak-Lowy
Garfield roams the earth, on the lookout for creatures growing from the ground up. When he was a boy, he explored his neighborhood, expecting to encounter Jim Henson’s monster muppets, because they seemed real enough, because the world would be so much better with them in it. When Sendak transformed Max’s room into a forest, Garfield dove down into the page. The transformation made perfect sense, as the trees rose right out of the bedposts. Garfield knew the Wild Things weren’t truly real, but he was convinced that they should be. And even could be.
So it is with his mounds. He less makes them than completes them. The rest of us drive by a pile of gravel and see, well, a pile of gravel. Garfield sees a half-hidden creature needing just a bit of help to come alive. He pops open the trunk of his car and removes a crate of future facial features. Patiently circling the slumbering mound, careful not to startle it, he slowly summons a being that, it will turn out, has been there all along. Once its features emerge out of the woodchips or the leaves or the snow, Garfield cautiously climbs its back to mark them with a pair of vinyl LP eyes and a driftwood mouth.
After the face is finished, Garfield picks up his camera to document his discovery. Mounds are a fleeting species, gone not long after they’re born. The snow melts, the leaves blow away, the woodchips are hauled off to the local playground. Thankfully, no mound is ever as alive as when Garfield captures it on film. In these images the living mound is looking right back at him, utterly alive, its unique personality fully expressed.
The sheepish mound, the mischievous mound, the surprised mound, they’re all members of his short-lived menagerie, proof that our world is every bit as rich and magical as Garfield knew it had to be from the beginning.
Todd Hasak-Lowy is a longtime mound enthusiast and the author of numerous books for readers young and old.