Maira Kalman is brilliant. A writer, illustrator, artist, designer and all-around talent, she has written and illustrated children's books, adult books, many New Yorker covers, and blogs for the New York Times among many other things. When he was young, my nephew and I spent many hours reading and re-reading Ooh-la-la (Max in Love), from which we learned that speaking French properly is easy: just hold your nose, stamp your foot, say "non, non, non!" et voila! Kalman's year-long 2009 New York Times blog "And the Pursuit of Happiness" is one of the best summaries of what America is I have ever come across.
So when I received an invitation to attend the July 1 opening of her first major museum exhibition, “Maira Kalman: Various Illuminations (of a Crazy World)” at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco, you can believe I went. She was there signing books after speaking to an audience (which I wasn't a part of, since it filled up very quickly). Unfortunately I wasn't allowed to take photographs inside the exhibition, but this copy in her handwriting of a letter from Proust to la Princesse de Clermont-Tonnerre was tacked to the wall outside. It gives you a taste of the kind of thing she draws and is drawn to:
(My Dear Madame, I just noticed that I forgot my cane at your house yesterday. Please be good enough to give it to the bearer of this Letter. P.S. Kindly pardon me for disturbing you, I just found my cane. [signed] Marcel Proust)
The exhibition contained more than a dozen New Yorker covers, lots of drawings from her various books, and ephemera like a wooden ironing board with lists under glass of colors mentioned in the text of Madame Bovary. How can you not love someone who does something like that?
The rest of the evening continued in the charming vein; as we left the museum we came across a band playing Duke Ellington's "Take the A Train" for an enthusiastic group of dancers, some of whom were clearly proficient at 1940's style swing dancing.
One woman was In the Mood (pun intended) to celebrate the 4th of July (US Independence Day), just around the corner.
And this morning we turned that corner and we're off to a party where there will be barbecue, cold drinks, fun and fireworks. With any luck the usual July fog will stay offshore and the sun will shine until darkness falls. A perfect day is expected. And the same wished to you all.
(Note to my dear cousin Tusia: this blog post is for you. I love you and miss you.)