There are people you discover by chance – with a cup of coffee in your hand while you’re trying to avoid Google crashing down because of all those windows left open and forgotten… I don’t remember the precise moment when Maira Kalman entered from one of those windows. I only remember I thought she was wonderfully crazy. From that moment on started my love for one of the most irreverent and intelligent women I had the pleasure to virtually stumble upon.
Expressive illustrator, author and artist, firm believer in the magic of the moment inside the moment, inside the moment – i.e. that series of small and miraculous events that happen to us every day, details that most of us don’t even notice and that Maira looks for, contemplates and freezes with her naif, vaguely childish but undoubtedly exquisite art.
Her collection of empty boxes. The one of sponges from all over the world. The whistles or the one of discarded couches and mattresses. Objects stolen from the flowing of time, in which bitter and sweet – the two ingredients of memory – both find a righteous place.
Maira is a collector of souvenirs marked on the white page with patience, to create the catalogue of an entire life, hers.
Maira tells stories, and she does it both with pictures and words, as strong as the vivid and saturated colors she chooses. I lost the counting of all the times I re-watched her TED talks, listened to her interviews. A continuous flow of words, uninterrupted, dense. So much that each time a different shade appears, a sentence first lost and then found. And the more I keep researching, the more this character reveals herself, together with her story, her past. In her tales there is no limit between private life and work, familiar and stranger. While I listen to her, a series of timeless images pass in front of my eyes. Maira’s magic stands in slinging you in her world without a parachute.
So, clueless, you find yourself front row at the wedding of her mum or in her grandma’s kitchen while she fries Israeli delicacies.
Her artistic work is quite vaste and speaks to both children and adults. The Principles of Uncertainty is probably one of my favourite, followed by Girls standing on Lawns, a collaboration along with Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket) and MoMa – a gem I truly advice to anyone in love with old, lost and found pictures.
And Maira walks. A lot. Always. She strolls daily along the streets of the city she calls ‘home” – New York – one among her undisputed loves, together with her husband Tibor Kalman and her dog Pete.
The certainty that walking is the only antidote to loneliness and boredom is her first dogma. It empties your brain and fills your heart up. When you stroll without a destination, you stop trying so hard and end up stumbling upon the a-Ah! moments, those instants when for a split second you are fully aware of everything. They call them epiphanies.
And maybe just like a series of epiphanies her art, her words, make something click inside you, like this, just by chance. As a window that opens up suddenly, and blows away all the papers. And you can’t help but smile, because there’s too much wind, the air fills your head up and you cannot think, but only feel.