The Secret Art of Dr. Seuss: Mayfaire’s Gallery of Fine Art Embraces the ‘Silly Side’

Written by: Nikki Kroushl  |  Photography by: Ethan Franks

When you walk into the Gallery of Fine Art at Mayfaire, it’s clear that it is not a traditional art gallery. Located on Inspiration Drive, the Gallery’s wall and corner displays include tiny stuffed mice, robot characters made from coffee cans, sun-shaped faces puffing on cigars, and tiny clay figurines of yorkies, frogs, and angel pigs. While the walls are covered in large canvases by famous names, the shelves are also stocked with more affordable collectibles, like a $15 owl-shaped clay mug. One of the big names on the walls is Dr. Seuss—an artist whom Mike and Cynthia Golonka have been representing for seventeen years.

Dr. Seuss, whose real name was Theodore Geisel, spent the hours between 3 a.m. and 9 a.m. working on
his “
Secret Art” or “Midnight Paintings.”

“He loved doing the books,” Cynthia Golonka says, “but his books were done during the day. This was himplaying.”

The Gallery of Fine Art at Mayfaire is one of only 99 locations worldwide that carries limited-run, estate-sanctioned reproductions of Dr. Seuss’s artwork, and it has one of the largest collections among those galleries. 

Their collection of Seuss artwork varies from colorful abstract paintings of characters to sweeping landscapes of fantastical worlds, and from political cartoons to the “Unorthodox Taxidermy” series.  

Dr. Seuss isn’t the only artist at the Gallery who “had fun with” his art. Wyland, a world-renowned artist responsible for the Whaling Wall on Nutt Street, has numerous paintings on display, many of them collaborations with Disney. George Pocheptsov, the child prodigy who grew up in Wilmington, has whimsical, colorful acrylics of mermaids hanging in the store. Fabio Napoleoni, famous for his cast of cartoonish characters tell stories for his daughter with a heart condition and has dozens of quirky canvases

 on display.

Cynthia speaks of these famous artists as friends, noting that they are warm, genuinely kind, and “sweet.” It reflects the attitude of the gallery itself.

“We focus on uplifting art,” Cynthia says. “People come into the Gallery of Fine Art and see all these humorous works. This is fine art. It makes life happier, it lightens the world, and I think it helps people who wouldn’t normally collect, to enjoy the work too.”

The Golonkas founded their gallery with the goal of welcoming people from all walks of life to the artworld, including those “people who wouldn’t normally collect.”

“We want people to know that they can come in and ask questions comfortably, without feeling intimidated,” Cynthia says. “We believe in creating a community that understands art.” It’s part of why the Gallery embraces the “silly side” of fine art.

An estate representative will be in the town at the gallery, prior to the event, Tuesday, October 10th to show the new 60th Anniversary pieces. If you would like to attend with the representative please call the gallery to schedule.

The Golonkas have another mission: using art to raise money for charity.

“When we get people together for an art show,” Cynthia says, “why not go ahead and tell them why something is important?”

This year the Gallery will be hosting a Dr. Seuss Art Show on November 3 & 4.

The Golonka’s will donate several Dr. Seuss pieces themselves. They will also solicit donations from other Mayfaire merchants to serve as raffle prizes. The show’s theme is the 60th anniversary of Cat in the Hat and The Grinch, and the Dr. Seuss estate will provide additional displays. The event will be free and open to all, with plans for hors d’oeuvres, wine, and live music. Donations from the raffle and from the event itself will be split between the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation and the Wilmington chapter of the Muscular Dystrophy Association, two organizations close to Cynthia Golonka’s heart, because she has mitochondrial disease.

“When we get a cure for mitochondrial disease,” Cynthia says, “we will also be helping with ALS, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Autism, and some kinds of cancer.”

This year’s art show will be the Golonkas’ fourth fundraiser for the UMDF, although they’ve been hosting charity events since the gallery opened.

Wilmington locals should look forward to this lively and unique show—a chance not only to see one of the largest collections of Dr. Seuss artwork in the world, but to see the work of talented local craftsmen.

The Golonkas see fine art as something personal, but also something to be shared. That’s why Cynthia Golonka hunted down two versions of the Dr. Seuss painting that stole her heart almost two decades ago: “Elephant Presenting a Flower.” One of the “Elephant” reproductions hangs in her home. This and other pieces no longer available anywhere else await any person who appreciates the whimsical, humorous, heartwarming art of Dr. Seuss.

“Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” – Dr. Seuss