Maira Kalman

Maira Kalman is a writer and artist and thinker. She has created something I can only call the “graphic essay,” and which can only be understood by looking at / reading one.



Her graphic world is full of bright colors and unusual angles. Her unique calligraphy swoops and flies among her images. She loves capturing Daily Life: hats, kitchen sinks, burger platters.






One of Maira’s great themes is ephemerality: the preciousness of every moment that passes, under the threat of mortality. Every moment, for her, becomes a visual poem.



Here are the first few images from one of her “And the Pursuit of Happiness” pieces:






Never in a million years could I have come up with “soigné diatoms.” Nor could I have rhymed “Beringia” with “herringia,” nor seen the obvious link between motorcycles and dinosaurs.



The sketches and paintings and drawings are all her own work, and the photos, and that candy / cookie / Play-Doh single-celled creature at the beginning.



But the real magic lies in the combination of all these with her words, and her thoughts.



She described herself in a recent Thinkr video as a “loopy optimist,” and I think that’s appropriate, but I think she’s too modest. Here’s the video:





She has written on history, and democracy, and travel, and music. She has shared chocolate with both Kitty Carlisle Hart and Louise Bourgeois, and shown us both encounters:




“Nature is the guarantee of sanity. Or maybe love. Or both. Or not. Anyway . . .”



I feel extraordinarily encouraged when I read her essays. They make me feel that it might actually be worthwhile to continue for a few days or months more on Planet Earth.



And for that: thank you, Maira Kalman.



About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to

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