Maira Kalman at the Cooper Hewitt Museum

Today, I’m thrilled to have Pamela White writing about the Maira Kalman exhibition which is being held at the Cooper Hewitt Museum. She mentioned the exhibition during a recent Skype chat, and I asked her if she would revisit it again to share pictures of it with me (and you, dear readers!) And being the great sport she was, she immediately agreed! The below is her letter to me, sharing her thoughts and emotions as she explores the exhibition.

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Dear Amy,

I went back to the Cooper Hewitt Museum to document the Maira Kalman show for you and I’m so happy that I did. It is really wonderful to return to an exhibit to look more closely, or even to notice things that you missed the first time around. In this case though, the show had a whole new dimension on my second trip.

The gallery was full of live music, piano and oboe and Mozart… It was really magical to have the added surprise of musicians playing in the space. I realized that the gallery, this particular room, was originally the music room for the family of Andrew Carnegie who built and lived in this grand mansion with his wife and daughter at the turn of the 20th century. The museum, much like Maira’s work is both elegant and playful.

I have loved Maira Kalman’s artwork for a long time. I think I first saw one of her children’s books, maybe “Ooh-la-la (Max in Love)”, or an illustration in the New York Times. Anyway, I am always so happy when she has made a new book that I can pour through, or when The New Yorker Magazine arrives in our mailbox with a lady in a pink hat on the cover (it’s Maira’s work!) So when I stumbled upon this show a few weeks ago while visiting the newly renovated museum with my son I was delighted.

To experience the show is like walking into one of Maira’s books and strolling through each page, or hanging out with her while she deftly arranges objects that she loves and hearing her thoughts about the bon-bons wrapped in red and gold foil, or maybe the black stockings from France. In fact there is a lovely hand written text dispersed throughout the exhibit.

As I listened to Mozart and studied the objects it felt so natural that these things, an old metal bed, Abraham Lincoln’s gold pocket watch, a velvet chair with a film of dancing ladies set into it’s back belong in this music room. The objects tell a story about memory, and the passing of time. I thought of my own objects: things I lost, that great fall wool jacket. What ever happened to it? Small things with so much meaning like the perfumed red, silk carnation my son gave me the day we met when he was five and it was Mother’s Day.

Maira has made two wonderful books to accompany the exhibit. One is for children and the other for adults. I would like to own them both. They are filled with beautiful images and words.

The show is on view until June 7th, 2015.

To learn more about Maira Kalman and the exhibit you can visit this link.



About Pamela:

Pamela White is a visual artist who works primarily with gouache and collage on paper. She enjoys the opaque richness of gouache and the pattern, texture and stories found in collage papers collected from many sources including old dictionaries, and placemats from airplane dinners. Her work is both narrative and decorative and spans both fine art and illustration. She is also an art educator who has taught in many New York City public schools, as well as some of the city’s museums. She feels fortunate to have the wealth of New York’s museums just a quick bike or train ride from home. She also draws inspiration from her everyday world and the discoveries found when traveling to new places. She lives in Manhattan with her husband and son and their 2 cats, and works at her studio in West Harlem.

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