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Maira Kalman finds the truth in the mess

It was the first days of the pandemic and the artist and writer Maira Kalman had taken refuge in Saugerties, New York, with her son and daughter-in-law. She was at the Kingston Farmers Market when inspiration struck. “I saw this woman holding a giant cabbage, and I thought: that’s it. I’ve finished. I know what I’m doing now”, recalls the artist. “The woman wasn’t exactly thrilled that I wanted to photograph her, but I politely and respectfully asked, and she agreed.”

When Kalman looked at his files, he noticed that he had a large collection of photographs of women holding things. “I started thinking about the responsibilities that women have, the nature of being a woman and what it means to contain the complexity of life,” she said. Her idea prompted her to start painting. “When you paint, things are revealed. You see what’s on your mind and what’s important. I relate to the role in an emotional way. I want there to be surprises; I want there to be mistakes and I want there to be problems. It’s more interesting to me that way. There is truth in the mess.”

The project that germinated from that meeting in the market, “Women holding things”, brings together dozens of new images and some unpublished. The paintings have been collected in a new book, due out next month, and will also be on display at the Mary Ryan Gallery from October 6 to November 12. ♦

This is taken from “women holding things.”

‘Girl holding a violin’.

“Woman who holds a grudge.”

“Pesach holding Maira”.

“Woman holding a pink ukulele under a giant cherry tree.”

“A chair can hold a hat.”

“Woman Holding”.

“Women holding / malicious opinions / while I play the piano.”

“Ayana V Jackson holding my gaze”.

“Woman in my dream / walking among almond blossoms / holding a giant rock.”

“Woman Holding Chicken”.

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