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Maira Kalman
Maira kalman 2010.jpg
Kalman at the 2010 Texas Book Festival
Born 1949 (age 71–72)
Nationality American
Education New York University
Known for Illustrator, writer
Spouse(s) Tibor Kalman (m. 1981, d. 1999)

Maira Kalman (Hebrew: מאירה קלמן; born 1949) is an Israeli-born American illustrator, writer, artist, and designer. She is known for her playful and witty illustrations, featured in publications such as The New York Times and The New Yorker, and the children's books that she has both written and illustrated. The urban environment of New York City brings Kalman's creativity to life. She has collaborated with New York institutions, such as The Museum of Modern Art. She has also drawn inspiration from the city's geography and well known landmarks. Her picture book, Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey, can be found in WorldCat library. This book was both written and illustrated by Kalman. It won the annual Boston Globe–Horn Book Award for Nonfiction in 2003.

Early life

Kalman was born in Tel Aviv, Israel. Her parents had emigrated to Israel in the 1930s, and her father was a fervent Zionist who was a member of Irgun. Her mother, Sara Berman, was originally from Belarus and had moved to Israel to escape pogroms. When Kalman was growing up in Israel, the women in her family "...worked like beasts from morning to night. It was that sense of dedicating yourself to a life of taking care of the people you love, by baking and sewing and cleaning," Kalman explained.

When Kalman was four years old, her family moved to New York City, so that her father could expand his diamond business. The family lived in Riverdale, Bronx. Her mother, Sara, spent a significant amount of time at the Loehmann's department store. She was known for her chic style, and she wore only white. Kalman attended the High School of Music & Art, now known as LaGuardia High School, where she studied art and received a Bachelors of Arts degree. She attended New York University where she studied English literature. By the time Kalman had left for college, her parents had returned to Israel.

At the age of 18, Kalman met designer Tibor Kalman, a native of Budapest who had moved to New York City as a child, at New York University. She explained, "We met in this class of misfits in summer school. They said, You have to take these classes, otherwise we're going to throw you out. What was interesting was the mix of crazy people in that group... So we met there, and he asked me out on a date. And you know in your life, when you meet somebody [and] you go, 'I've known you for a thousand years,' and there's not even an iota of a question?"

Career

In 1979, Maira and Tibor founded the graphic and design consultancy, M & Co. The firm grew to be highly influential; it was known for its innovative use of images and typography. M & Co. created work for Interview magazine, Restaurant Florent, the band Talking Heads, the National Audubon Society, and the Museum of Modern Art.

Kalman played a critical role in the development of M & Co, but her priorities began to shift with the birth of her children, Lulu (1983) and Alex (1985). Beginning in the mid-1980s, Kalman began to publish children's book. Her first children's book, Stay Up Late (1985), featured illustrations paired lyrics of musician David Byrne. The book told the story of children who prevent their baby brother from falling asleep.

In 1990s, Tibor served as the editor-in-chief of COLORS magazine. The magazine was known for confronting topics such as ecology and HIV/AIDS. In 1999, Tibor passed away. Maira Kalman began creatively asserting herself, writing more than 20 books over the years. As mentioned in an interview with Grapevine, Kalman notes how she always had a passion for writing, and that she was always interested in the field. Kalman did not consider herself just a writer, but addressed that she was a storyteller, a journalist, a designer and a humorist.

Over the course of her career, Kalman has written a series of children's books about Max Stravinsky, the poet-dog. She created the sets for the Mark Morris Dance Group production of Four Saints in Three Acts, an opera by Virgil Thompson and Gertrude Stein. In addition, she has been a contributor for The New Yorker since 1995 and has produced many cover illustrations as well as illustrated columns. Most notably, Kalman collaborated with Rick Meyerowitz for The New Yorker cover called New Yorkistan. This cover created a lot of attention to the public since the magazine tackled tribalism in the city. The magazine emptied the newsstands within two days.

In 2002, Kalman's children's book, Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of John J. Harvey, was released. This focuses on New York City's more recent terror attack on the twin towers. September 11, 2001, marks the day in which the twin towers fell. John J. Harvey served for the World Trade Center attack, being one of the first responding boats arriving to the attacks that day. This book educates many young individuals who may not have been around at the time. This book actively describes the history behind Harvey and the importance of this day.

In 2005, Kalman is also known for her illustrations for the 2005 edition of The Elements of Style, the popular guide to writing style, by William Strunk. She also designed production sets for an opera about Gertrude Stein.

Kalman wrote the monthly illustrated blog, The Principles of Uncertainty, for the New York Times for one year, ending in April 2007. The blog was published in a book of the same title, which was released in 2007. During 2009, Kalman wrote another illustrated blog in the [New York Times called And the Pursuit of Happiness about American democracy. The blog was published as a book in 2010. The first chapter chronicles her visit to Washington, D.C. for President Barack Obama's inauguration. Kalman's work is also featured on Rosenbach Museum and Library's 21st Century Abe project.

Kalman crafted the illustrations for author Daniel Handler's (a.k.a. Lemony Snicket) 13 Words in 2010 and Why We Broke Up in 2011. The two went on to collaborate on a series of illustrated books published by The Museum of Modern Art. Exploring MoMA's collection of photography, Kalman and Handler composed three themed volumes that combined vintage photographs with Kalman's paintings and Handler's prose.

In 2014, My Favorite Things, by Maira Kalman, was published by Harper Design, a division of HarperCollins. The book focused on significant objects from the Cooper Hewitt and the personal collection of Kalman, such as a pocket watch possessed by Abraham Lincoln, original editions of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Winnie-the-Pooh, and photographs that Kalman had taken.

In 2017, she was awarded the AIGA Medal for her work in "storytelling, illustration, and design while pushing the limits of all three."

In the summer of 2017, Kalman collaborated with choreographer John Heginbotham to produce a theatrical and dance interpretation of Kalman's blog, The Principles of Uncertainty. It debuted in late August at Jacob's Pillow, and had its New York premier at the Brooklyn Academy of Music Fisher in late September. Kalman performed in the piece, playing herself. Then in the Fall of that year, Kalman was a resident at the American Academy in Rome.

Kalman is represented by the Julie Saul Gallery in New York City. Since 2003, Kalman has had eight exhibitions here.

In November 2019, Kalman's publications were exhibited in Amherst, Massachusetts at The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art until April 2020. This exhibit captured Kalman's career for others to learn about her work through an educational experience.

Personal life

Maira Kalman married designer Tibor Kalman in 1981. Over the course of their marriage, Maira and Tibor had two children, Lulu and Alexander. They were married eighteen years until Tibor's death from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 1999.

Kalman's mom, Sara Berman was the early source to her inspiration behind story telling and book reading. As a mother daughter activity, Kalman and her mom would go to the library and connect themselves to the characters of the books they would read. In 2017, Kalman and her son Alexander got together with coordinators of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The MET, and created an exhibit dedicated to Kalman's mom called "Sara Berman's Closet." Sara Berman's Closet also became a memoir book that Kalman and her son worked on in dedication to their loved family member.

Kalman has worked on one short film with her son titled "The Most Wonderful Day" which was published on YouTube. The short film is quirky and fun, opening with a scene at the kitchen table where then the film goes through vignette scenes throughout the house.

In 2014, Kalman has also performed in a production of Peter & the Wolf directed by Isaac Mizrahi's at the Guggenheim's Peter B. Lewis Theater in New York City. Kalman's character is the duck which represents the sound of an oboe instrument.

She is in a relationship with Rick Meyerowitz.

Kalman lives in Greenwich Village in New York City. She has an apartment in Tel Aviv.

Exhibitions

Source:

  • 2003 – Just Looking, Julie Saul Gallery, New York, NY
  • 2005 – I Can't Stand All the Excitement, Julie Saul Gallery, New York, NY
  • 2007 – The Principles of Uncertainty, Julie Saul Gallery, New York, NY
  • 2008 – Just Looking, Beihang University, Beijing, China
  • 2009 – The Elements of Style, Memorial Art Gallery, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY
  • 2009 – The Principles of Uncertainty, Jackson Fine Art Gallery, Atlanta, GA
  • 2009 – The Principles of Uncertainty, Jackson Fine Art Gallery, Atlanta, GA
  • 2010 – Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco, CA; Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
  • 2010 – Further Illuminations, Julie Saul Gallery, New York, NY
  • 2010 – Various Illuminations (of a Crazy World), The Jewish Museum, New York, NY; Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles, CA
  • 2011 – 25 Years/25 Artists, Julie Saul Gallery, New York, NY
  • 2011 – Storied City: New York in Picture Book Art, Katonah Museum of Art, Katonah, NY
  • 2012 – 37 Paintings, Julie Saul Gallery, New York, NY
  • 2013 – What Pete Ate from A to Z, Madison Children's Museum, Madison, WI
  • 2014 – Girls Standing on Lawns and Other Projects, Julie Saul Gallery, New York, NY
  • 2014 – Maira Kalman: My Favorite Things, The Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum, New York, NY
  • 2014 – The Elements of Style, The Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville, TN
  • 2014 – Thomas Jefferson Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Everything, Monticello, Charlottesville, VA
  • 2015 – Sara Berman's Closet, Mmuseumm, New York City, NY
  • 2017 – Sara Berman's Closet, in collaboration with Alex Kalman, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, NY
  • 2019 – The Pursuit of Everything: Maira Kalman's Books for Children, The High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA

Source:

  • Hey Willie, See the Pyramids (1988) Viking/Penguin
  • Sayonara, Mrs. Kackleman (1989) Viking Kestrel/Penguin
  • Max Makes a Million (1990) Viking/Penguin
  • Roarr, Calder's Circus (1991) Delacorte Press/Bantam Dell/Random House
  • Max In Hollywood, Baby (1992) Viking/Penguin
  • Chicken Soup, Boots (1993) Viking/Penguin
  • Ooh-la-la, Max in Love (1994) Viking/Penguin
  • Swami on Rye: Max in India (1995) Viking/Penguin
  • Max Deluxe (1996) Viking/Penguin
  • Next Stop Grand Central (1999) Putnam/Penguin
  • (un)Fashion (with her husband Tibor Kalman) (2005) Harry N. Abrams
  • What Pete Ate From A to Z (2001) Putnam/Penguin
  • Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey (2002) Putnam/Penguin
  • Colors: Tibor Kalman, Issues 1–13 (with her husband Tibor Kalman) (2002)
  • Smartypants (Pete In School)
  • The Illustrated Elements of Style (with William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White) (2008) Penguin
  • The Principles of Uncertainty (2009) Penguin Press
  • Various Illuminations (of a Crazy World) (2010) DelMonico Prestel München 2010
  • 13 words (2010) by Lemony Snicket HarperCollins Children's Books
  • And the Pursuit of Happiness (2010) Penguin Press
  • Food Rules (2011) by Michael Pollan Penguin Group
  • Looking at Lincoln (2012) Nancy Paulsen Books, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group
  • Girls Standing on Lawns (2014) by Daniel Handler Abrams Books for Young Readers
  • My Favorite Things (2014) with the Cooper-Hewitt Museum, Harper Design, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
  • Thomas Jefferson : Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Everything (2014) Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Group
  • Beloved Dog (2015) Penguin Press
  • Hurry Up and Wait (2015) by Daniel Handler Museum of Modern Art, New York
  • Weather, Weather (2016) by Daniel Handler Museum of Modern Art, New York
  • Cake (with Barbara Scott-Goodman) (2018) Penguin Press
  • Swami on Rye: Max in India NYR Children's Collection, 2018
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