Famed Illustrator Maira Kalman Takes on the Cooper Hewitt’s Collections | Arts & Culture | Smithsonian
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Chairs: “You’d be surprised how many chairs people leave on the street,” says Kalman, who worked from a photograph to depict the abandoned specimen. (From the forthcoming book My Favorite Things by Maira Kalman. Copyright © 2014 by Maira Kalman.)
Loss: Smithsonian Museum of American History holdings include the black silk draped over Lincoln’s casket: “An unassuming piece of fabric covered the coffin of a beloved genius and leader of this country,” she says. (From the forthcoming book My Favorite Things by Maira Kalman. Copyright © 2014 by Maira Kalman.)
Rooms: In her childhood bedroom in Israel (reimagined), the artist recalls reading “two books that sealed my fate as a writer—The Secret Garden and Pippi Longstocking.” (From the forthcoming book My Favorite Things by Maira Kalman. Copyright © 2014 by Maira Kalman.)
Loss: Samplers to mourn the dead were commonplace in 1800s America; Kalman stitched the embroideries (depicted above) to memorialize her mother. (From the forthcoming book My Favorite Things by Maira Kalman. Copyright © 2014 by Maira Kalman.)
Taking tea: Kalman prizes the simplicity of Cooper Hewitt’s 1930s teapot from a German glassworks: “I’m a lover of Bauhaus artifacts.” (From the forthcoming book My Favorite Things by Maira Kalman. Copyright © 2014 by Maira Kalman.)
Chairs: She also admires Dutch designer Gerrit Rietveld’s Zig-Zag chair (c. 1934). “He took things to their elemental line. He was rigorous—but had a sense of humor.” (From the forthcoming book My Favorite Things by Maira Kalman. Copyright © 2014 by Maira Kalman.)
Shoes: “I’m fascinated by shoes,” Kalman says. “I want to do a history of them, their material, their use.” (The Cooper Hewitt’s kidskin slippers are from the 1830s.) (From the forthcoming book My Favorite Things by Maira Kalman. Copyright © 2014 by Maira Kalman.)
Taking tea: The sugary confections, stuffed peppers and platter of carp evoke childhood lunches when Kalman’s family visited relatives in Israel. “There was baking every Friday,” she recalls. (From the forthcoming book My Favorite Things by Maira Kalman. Copyright © 2014 by Maira Kalman.)
Rooms: At the Cooper Hewitt, once Andrew Carnegie’s mansion, Kalman’s selections will be displayed in the Music Room. (From the forthcoming book My Favorite Things by Maira Kalman. Copyright © 2014 by Maira Kalman.)
Shoes: The mud-caked boots summon up her mother’s brother, who worked on an Israeli kibbutz. “He died before my mother,” Kalman recalls. “It was a great heartbreak.” (From the forthcoming book My Favorite Things by Maira Kalman. Copyright © 2014 by Maira Kalman.)

Famed Illustrator Maira Kalman Takes on the Cooper Hewitt’s Collections

In her latest book, the noted artist juxtaposes treasured personal objects with items from the Smithsonian design museum

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The paintings in Maira Kalman’s new book, My Favorite Things, juxtapose touchstones from her personal history with holdings from the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City, as well as other Smithsonian collections. The disparate elements, she says, are bound together by sheer pluck: “These objects might be on a sidewalk or in a museum, but all seem to be equally brave to survive—which is how I also feel about people.” Kalman curated more than 50 of the items for an exhibition that will accompany the Cooper Hewitt’s grand reopening on December 12 after extensive renovations.

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About Maira Kalman

Maira Kalman is an American author and artist has published more than 20 books, including her latest works My Favorite Things and Ah-Ha to Zig-Zag. She has also created two monthly online columns for the New York Times and has had numerous museum exhibitions, including the upcoming “Maira Kalman Selects” at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.

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