The Daily Heller: What’s Taken Hold of Maira Kalman’s Art

Posted inThe Daily Heller

Last winter Maira Kalman, author, artist, commentator and satirist, lost her good friend, gallery owner Julie Saul. It was tragedy enough to lose a friend to the ravages of cancer but closing the gallery was also heart-wrenching. Fortuitously, Maira was welcomed into another stellar New York gallerist’s domain. Mary Ryan Gallery will be showing Women Holding Things, a premiere exhibition of Kalman’s joyful, at times touchingly somber, emotionally nuanced portraits.

Kalman’s art is always a pleasure to see in print or on the wall. At Mary Ryan Gallery the wall is the platform of choice. The collection includes over 30 new paintings by Kalman, created during the pandemic. A “love song to the women in our world,” it runs from Oct. 6–Nov. 12. The opening reception is scheduled for 6–8 p.m., Oct. 6.

I asked Kalman two questions (below) and received a characteristically wonderful Maira-esque answer.

Maira Kalman, Eva Hesse, 2020 © Maira Kalman; courtesy of the artist and Mary Ryan Gallery, New York
Maira Kalman, Woman Holding Eyebrows, 2021 © Maira Kalman; courtesy of the artist and Mary Ryan Gallery, New York
Maira Kalman, Woman Holding Chicken, 2021 © Maira Kalman; courtesy of the artist and Mary Ryan Gallery, New York

Can you tell me why “Women Holding Things” is your current focus? And how did you select your subjects?

What can I say?

That men are not as accessible to me as women?

Or that the women in my family were the most compelling?

Or that they held my interest?

That they were not the patriarchy meant a great deal.

We were together in an (unspoken) unity as the oppressed class.

Little power, but much valor. Much humor.

And look how women dress.

So much to admire and look at.

The women I chose captured my imagination.

There is the falling in love factor with the subject. No other criteria.

Maira Kalman, Woman Carrying Balloons in the Park, 2022 © Maira Kalman; courtesy of the artist and Mary Ryan Gallery, New York
Maira Kalman, Kiki in the Garden, 2022 © Maira Kalman; courtesy of the artist and Mary Ryan Gallery, New York