Side Image: 

William Bernard Schade (American, 1943-2008), Carman Miranda's Fruit Eating Chick-a-Boom, 1981, drypoint, 26 x 32 inches. Purchase, through gift from Walter Frautschi. Collection of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art.

About the Artist
William Bernard Schade

William Bernard Schade is known for his lively and fanciful animal portraits in several media, including painting and drawing, sculpture, bookmaking, and drypoint etching. which is the medium for Carman Mirandas Fruit Eating Chick-a-Boom. Schade is a graduate of the University at Albany, State University of New York, and the Cranbrook Academy of Art, and is a former faculty member of Sage College in Albany, New York. Reputedly, when he was eight years old his spelling was so poor that he was sent to a teacher to receive special tutoring. The session began with her asking him to read a book aloud. She was puzzled about why he read so well when he was such a poor speller, until she realized he was simply looking at the pictures and inventing a convincing story. Schade never became a good speller due to dyslexia but he continued to develop his skill for creating good stories. The "fruit helmit" and "the berry's" in this print are examples of his spelling inaccuracies. An online exhibition of his works, referenced below, includes an installation of the Happy Room completely modeled from the artist’s Williamstown, Massachusetts home.

Discussion Questions
  • "Chick-a-boom" can be considered a form of onomatopoeia, or the translation of sounds into words, such as "buzz" or "hiss." It is often used to describe animal sounds or noises in comics. What might be other examples?
  • "Chick-a-boom" and "boom, chick-a-boom" describe rhythms. Say the words over and over several times. Try to make different rhythms with the words. Try moving your hands with the beats, then your feet, then your whole body. What instruments could express the rhythm? Do you know of any songs with rhythms like these? What are they?
  • What do you notice about how the artist has organized the shapes in this composition? How does the arrangement draw your eyes into the picture and invite them to move around the whole artwork?
  • Imagine meeting this creature one day. In what places might you encounter it? What sounds can you imagine it making? How would you describe it to someone after your meeting?
  • What are your ideas about the measurement lines around the bird? What do they suggest about the bird’s size? What are some other ways that lines like these are used?
  • What do you know about the foods that birds like to eat? What are some examples of birds that like to eat fruits?
  • William Schade has drawn the strawberries and the pineapple and the bird’s feet so convincingly it seems that he is trying to make a convincing image of a real bird. What are your ideas about the reality or fantasy of this picture?
  • In Salvador de Bahia in Brazil, the home of Carmen Miranda, festivals and street carnivals are known for their drumming music. Drumming came to Salvador from Africa with slave workers who were brought to work in the Portuguese sugar industry. Salvador de Bahia was Brazil's first center of government, from 1549 to 1763, and is currently the largest center of African culture in the Americans. The Bahian sound is a mix of Afro-Brazilian percussion with a touch of a reggae beat. Do you know of any other music that came to this country from another country or continent? What are some examples? 
  • cotter pin  A  metal fastener with two tines that are bent during installation, similar to a staple or rivet, and typically made of thick wire with a half-circular cross section
  • maraca  a rattle usually made from a gourd filled with seeds or dried beans that is used as a percussion instrument in Latin America
  • onomatopoeia  a word that imitates or suggests the source of the sound that it describes
  • reggae  music genre  developed in Jamaica in the late 1960s with a rhythmic pattern that accents the second and fourth beats in each bar, or the "ands" of each beat
  • samba  a Brazilian dance and musical genre with a 2/4 tempo having origins in African music 

Can You Imagine This? Fantasy in Art

Carman Miranda's Fruit Eating Chick-a-Boom is a vivid portrait of a lush black creature exhibiting qualities of a fluffy baby bird along with the talons and sharp beak of a fierce adult hunter. Its stubby pin feathers, black eye surrounded with a white ring, prominent nostril, curving beak, and scaly feet are all sharply delineated and give the bird a lively presence and spirit. Straight lines drawn from point to point around the bird and alongside its feet indicate measurements of the body segments, with numbers recording their lengths. Close looking reveals that the three white circles in the triangular-shaped body are actually little fasteners, or cotter pins, at the points where the neck, legs, and tail feathers join the body, suggesting that the pictured bird is made of two-dimensional parts pinned together rather than a full-bodied animate being. Under the bird’s fuzzy beak is a collection of nine strawberries labeled "the berrys," and under its tail feathers is a fancy helmet made from a pineapple and some bananas, pears, oranges, and grapes. Lots of faint squiggly lines fill the rest of the space, and a flower or butterfly floats near the bird's head. Across the bottom is the hand-lettered title.

Who is Carman Miranda and does she have a chick-a-boom for a pet? Carmen Miranda (she actually spelled her first name with an 'e') was a well-known Hollywood actress during the 1940s. She had come to the United States from Brazil, where she was already a celebrated film and recording star. In Hollywood, she starred in musical movies wearing colorful costumes that were styled like the clothing of Afro-Brazilian, or Baiana [Bah ee ah na] women, who sold fruit in Bahia [bah ee a], a state in her Brazilian homeland. For wartime movies such as Night in Rio (1941) and The Gang’s All Here (1943), Carmen Miranda piled fruit onto tall hats wrapped around the top of her head like turbans, or like big fruit bowls. She danced to Brazilian music called the samba, singing the rhythms of the music by using the words "boom, chick a boom" to emphasize the beats. The words were later sung on the 1950s television show I Love Lucy to Lucille Ball by bandleader Desi Arnaz. In one episode he sang,

"When I play the maracas
I go chick-chicky-boom
Si, Senorita, I know that you
Will like
The chicky-boom-chick
'Cause it's the dance of Latin romance."

The contagious rhythms of these words also form part of the rhythmic alphabet chant in the favorite preschool book Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, in which letters of the alphabet race each other to the top of a coconut tree, only to fall in a colorful heap—"Chicka Chicka…BOOM! BOOM!"

William Bernard Schade has amusingly translated the onomatopoeia of the musical rhythm "chick-a-boom" into a fanciful bird, picturing it with a diet of fruit and implying that it wears a fruit "helmit" like its owner "Carman." The hint that the bird is pinned together or pinned to its background may be his caricature of famous Hollywood actresses, including Carmen Miranda, whose images were commonly made into posters or "pinups" during the 1940s.