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.

Hear me talk about the power of stories at AFCC!


I’ve attended the Asian’s Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC) every year for the past 2 years (see this post, and this post) for their excellent Writers and Illustrators conference – and I’m so thrilled to be there the third time this year. I’m doubly excited because instead of merely being a participant, I’m going to be a speaker this time round!

I’m going to be talking about the subject of story, and how this idea is central to artists who want to share their work with the world. As illustrators and artists, there is no better time than now to begin – no more waiting for gatekeepers or waiting for another client’s brief. Truly.

It’s a philosophy I teach on Work/Art/Play and I’m excited to be able to share it with the AFCC crowd.

The Writer’s and Illustrator’s conference within AFCC is happening from 3rd to 5th June 2015, at the National Library of Singapore and I hope to see you there!

For more information, head on over to the AFCC website.

Empathy cards by Emily McDowell





I’m always curious on what to say to people who have gone through cancer – you’ll realise that I asked the same questions in my interview with Matilda Tristam earlier. I’m not the only one who has problems expressing my feelings as it turns out, because Emily McDowell knows all too well the embarrassment and waffling about that happens when you’re around someone with a serious illness.

From Emily’s website:

Most of us struggle to find the right words in the face of a friend or loved one’s major health crisis, whether it’s cancer, chronic illness, mental illness, or anything else. It’s a really tough problem; someone we love needs our support more than ever, but we don’t have the right language for it.

I created this collection of empathy cards for serious illness because I believe we need some better, more authentic ways to communicate about sickness and suffering. “Get well soon” cards don’t make sense when someone might not. Sympathy cards can make people feel like you think they’re already dead. A “fuck cancer” card is a nice sentiment, but when I had cancer, it never really made me feel better. And I never personally connected with jokes about being bald or getting a free boob job, which is what most “cancer cards” focus on.

Emily knows this personally as well, as she was diagnosed with Stage 3 Hodgkin’s lymphoma at age 24, and was given the all clear after 9 months of chemo and radiation. And through it all, it wasn’t the effect of the illness that made it difficult:

The most difficult part of my illness wasn’t losing my hair, or being erroneously called “sir” by Starbucks baristas, or sickness from chemo. It was the loneliness and isolation I felt when many of my close friends and family members disappeared because they didn’t know what to say, or said the absolute wrong thing without realizing it.

So if you’re not sure what to say to loved ones who are facing a serious illness – send one of Emily’s card their way. They’re most likely facing an unknown future, and embracing change like never before. These cards help put together words that you would like to say but wouldn’t know how to, eliminating miscommunication and the dreaded I-don’t-know-what-to-say-so-I’ll-just-not-say-anything syndrome. Once that’s out of the way, you can then concentrate on caring for your loved one the way you know how.

See the complete range over at Emily’s website.