Illustrator Maira Kalman Explores Art and Existence

Illustrator Maira Kalman Explores Art and Existence


MAIRA KALMAN: Half the time I don’t know what’s
going on, but I love it. MAIRA KALMAN: [READING FROM BOOK] How do you
know who you are? Half the time I don’t know who I am. Maybe even 7/8ths. Nevermind. Forget
it. Forget it. MAIRA KALMAN: How do you know who you are?
Well, there are many parts to who you are so there isn’t one static place. And then
the other part of that is things keep changing. When I was 7 or 8 I knew I was going to be
a writer. That was certain. And I was writing until college where I looked at my writing
and I thought, “this is really awful.” So, I thought “what’s a good way to tell the story?”
And I thought, “well, drawing, that could be kind of fun. Easier certainly than writing.”
So there was this idea of narrative drawing expressive illustration and I thought, “this
is for me.” I am now a writing again and an artist. My love is books, my love are books?
No. My love is books? Which one is it? I love books. And my relationship to creating work
for a book is really my strongest motivator. There is this fluidity between the narrative
word and the narrative picture. MAIRA KALMAN: [READING FROM BOOK] How are
we so optimistic? So careful not to trip and yet do trip and then get up and say, “okay.”
Why do I feel so sorry for everyone and so proud? MAIRA KALMAN: The sense that people get from
reading my work is that I don’t have antipathy to people. I really care about the people
that I’m writing about and I have a humanistic attitude and a kind of loopy optimism because
I’m acknowledging all the sadness and all the heartache and all the trouble, but I usually
come out on the side of..well despite that, here we go and on we go and things can also
be fantastic at the same time that they are horrible. MAIRA KALMAN: [READING FROM BOOK] What can
I tell you? The realization that we are all, you, me, going to die and the attending disbelief.
Isn’t that the central premise of everything? It stops me dead in my tracks a dozen times
a day. Do you think I remain frozen? No. I spring into action. I find meaningful distraction. MAIRA KALMAN: The idea of dying. I think it
enters into your vocabulary when you’re four years old and you say, “oh wait a minute.
Something is going to change here. Something is gonna end.” And the older you get, the
more you grapple with the idea that time is lessening and what is it that I’m supposed
to be doing here and how much happiness am I achieving on this planet? The idea that
you would have to say goodbye to all of this even though it’s infuriating and maddening
and frightening and horrible some of the time, is even more infuriating an maddening and
horrible, how do you spend this time without perpetually being so broken hearted about
saying the eventual goodbye. I usually say in the end it’s love and it’s work. What else
could there possibly be? What do I wanna do? What is the most wonderful thing I could be
doing? And who are the most wonderful people I could be with? You know, hopefully it’s
your immediate family on some level and maybe some good friends. And then whatever it is
that really engages you about work. MAIRA KALMAN: “Ich habe genug” is a Bach cantata
that I love very much and the sentiment is true which is, “I have enough,” usually. I
thought it meant “I’ve had it. Give me a break” but it meant just the opposite, which is “I
really have all that I need.” MAIRA KALMAN: I’m Maira Kalman. Subscribe
to THNKR.

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