Introductions: Maira Kalman
March 18, 2021
By Rebecca Hoogs, SAL Associate Director
Maira Kalman is the writer or illustrator of more than 30 books for adults and children, including The Elements of Style (Illustrated), My Favorite Things, The Principles of Uncertainty, and, most recently, an illustrated version of The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas.
When I read The Principles of Uncertainty several years ago, I knew immediately it was the sort of book I needed to keep and re-read, re-see on a yearly basis at least. Because it’s the kind of book, and Maira Kalman is the kind of artist, that reminds me that life is of the sweet-sad lemon tart variety, that the best life is the observed life, the walking life, the whimsical life, the life with cake and dogs and hats. That the ephemeral life is life. And that the objects of our lives, even the broken chairs on the sidewalk are, quote, “Tangible evidence of history, memory. Longing, delight.” She is the kind of artist who thanks, in the acknowledgements, many people, but also “doors, beds, photos, books, trees, and Tibor,” her late husband.
Maira Kalman has been a frequent contributor to the New York Times and The New Yorker. And she has collaborated with Mark Morris, David Byrne, and many more. But more importantly, perhaps, she collaborates with chance, she collaborates with the world to collect, to curate, to grasp at what makes us gasp. “Isn’t that the only way to curate a life?” she asks, “to live among things that make you gasp with delight.”
In this conversation she says, “We eat cake when we’re happy, we eat cake when we’re sad.” In this year of lots of happy/sad, Maira Kalman reminds me, and you, to eat the cake.
Please join me in welcoming the writer and artist of delights and longing, Maira Kalman.
Maira Kalman gave an online talk on March 15, 2021, as part of our 2020/21 SAL Presents series of special events; SAL Associate Director Rebecca Hoogs delivered this introduction.