Maira Kalman’s Philosopher’s Walk, cover art, The New Yorker, favorites: Every once in a while I search Maira Kalman because I just love her work. I found two today …
“I’m going to be teaching a short seminar to fourth-year illustration students in Jerusalem,” says Maira Kalman, the artist behind this week’s cover, “Canine Couture.” “I gave them a few pre-assignments: one is to take a half hour walk every day for ten days. Without cell phones, just walk and observe what’s around you for half an hour. And I am sure—I’m very sure—that asking them to spend half an hour without a cell phone is like asking them to take their clothes off. No cell phones, no cup of coffee—just take a solitary walk. If you want to be pretentious about it, Immanuel Kant is famous for taking his walk everyday at 3:30 P.M., so I suggested that time to them. It’s a good time of day; it’s a little bit tired, a little bit sleepy time of day. I’m hoping good things will grow out that.”
See below for a slide show of Kalman’s New Yorker covers, many born out of her solitary walks.
Isaac Mizrahi, Maira Kalman, Home Design Spring 2013, New York Magazine: Mizrahi and Kalman, interesting neighbors, don’t you think? … “But if I had to choose one thing that I love, there is nothing. I am very sad to think about having stuff, and not having stuff. There is a sense about wanting to have nothing, and then there is a sense about having everything and not giving anybody anything and keeping it all.”
Maira Kalman’s Dream Place
The artist draws the room of her fantasies—and talks to longtime neighbor and friend Isaac Mizrahi about how her Tel Aviv has influenced her New York.
Do you think that Sara Berman, your mother, understood aesthetics and design principles on the same level as you do?
No, no. I think that she just wanted to have nice things around her. But she also never spoke very much. She was a wonderful mother in amazing ways, but we never had conversations about things. You know, I have no idea what she thought of anything. It was more like, Pass the salt.
Where do you think you got such a sensibility about … objects?
Well, my sister is an artist and an interior designer. She went to high school for art. I went to high school for music. But then it was in the air, it was all around us. And then it was meeting [Maira’s late husband the designer] Tibor and graphic design, so that whole world opened up, kind of from nowhere.
Which object in this apartment do you like the best? Which means the most to you?
I still do have the little lunch bag that my mother made out of a towel and embroidered with my name on it for when I went to kindergarten. And it’s this big. I think she gave me five sandwiches and three apples, it’s huge! But if I had to choose one thing that I love, there is nothing. I am very sad to think about having stuff, and not having stuff. There is a sense about wanting to have nothing, and then there is a sense about having everything and not giving anybody anything and keeping it all. But the things that I have keep changing and go into different rooms. It is always a conflict.
Is it a commitment thing, the fact that you change so much?
In the I regret everything I say mode? [Laughs.] I regret everything I do.
I regret everything: nice “up” ending for our talk!
But does it come from a joyous place when you choose things, or does it come from a critical, mean place?
I think it is like starting fresh. Every Monday morning is new hope. And I just like the idea that the set changes. It is a set. That is my home.