© MAIRA KALMAN, COURTESY OF JULIE SAUL GALLERY
Kalman’s illustration for Stay Up Late.
Author-illustrator Maira Kalman’s bibliography is an impressive one. In addition to creating whimsical covers for the New Yorker, Kalman claims dozens of books to her credit: she debuted in 1985 with the picture book debut, Stay Up Late, and since then titles have included instant classics like Last Stop, Grand Central (1999), Looking at Lincoln (2012), Fireboat (2002), and, even an illustrated picture book called Cake (2018). Each book explores complex topics while maintaining a certain lightheartedness that makes her work accessible to people of all ages, but especially children. In fact, Kalman is adamant that children can handle any subject – slavery, love, even death – as long as it’s done the right way. “There’s always a way to talk to children as long as you are candid and kind,“ Kalman said in an interview with us back in 2014. “You don’t have to scare them beyond their understanding or above their age level.”
Later this month, Atlanta’s High Museum will host an exhibition dedicated to exploring Kalman’s work in a show entitled The Pursuit of Everything: Maira Kalman’s Books for Children. This is the fourth collaboration between the High Museum and the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts, and will span nearly the entirety of Kalman’s career. On loan from various institutions, the 100-piece show features a mix of books, original drawings, manuscripts, and even illustrated correspondence between Kalman and her two-year-old granddaughter.“We are thrilled to partner again with the High to bring children’s picture book art to Atlanta,” said Ellen Keiter, chief curator at The Carle. “Kalman is an astute chronicler of our time as well as someone who makes history accessible.”
“Both captivating and moving, Kalman’s work challenges all of us to rediscover the childlike curiosity that lives deep down inside,” said High director of education Virginia Shearer.
Additionally, Atlanta’s Alliance Theater will present the world premiere of the play “Max Makes a Million,” from June 20-July 21, 2019. Adapted by and directed by Liz Diamond, the play incorporates jazz, poetry, and the visual arts in a tale starring Kalman’s beloved poet puppy character, Max Stravinsky.
The Pursuit of Everything is both a celebration of Kalman’s work and a reaffirmation of the artist’s belief that children deserve honesty in their literature. “It’s absolutely possible to talk about anything with children,” Kalman said. “Because they do understand contradictions, and they do understand sadness and they do understand kindness. There isn’t a child in the world who doesn’t.”
The Pursuit of Everything is on display at the High Museum from June 22 through September 15, 2019.