On New Year’s Day we did pretty much nothing but watch movies. You see, finally and to the delight of my father-in-law, we had bought a TV the previous night—suddenly inspired by the thought having the Yule log burning on its enormous screen during our New Year’s Eve party. We looked exhaustively online (and by we, I mean Jason), visited a few stores and finally settled on a Samsung (they all looked the same to me). Our only point of contention was the size. Jason wanted a 47 inch (can you imagine?) and I wanted a reasonably small one. Something I could tuck away behind a few house plants. Anything bigger than my laptop screen seemed reasonable. We agreed on the 40 inch and though I worried that it would overwhelm our house, it didn’t. Actually, and sadly, it really brought the living room together. Anyway, all this is to say that we watched movies all day on January first and so we felt like we ought to do something good for the soul the next day.
On a whim, we went to the Skirball Cultural Center (which in my head I keep calling Skillman and then wondering who I know by that name—well, I don’t know anyone. I just now realized that it was simply the name of a street in my old neighborhood) where they were exhibiting Maira Kalman’s first museum exhibition “Various Illuminations (of a Crazy World)”.
You may know Maira from her splendid column And the Pursuit of Happiness (which she unfortunately hasn’t updated in some time) in The New York Times. (I love this one.) But if not there, then you’ll certainly recognize her work from numerous New Yorker covers. Or perhaps her illustrations in the latest editions of The Elements of Style. And if not that, then you really ought to check her out.
The show was a delightful escape from another rainy, gloomy LA day (which I do love, actually), with lots of color and charming drawings, writings and installations that took the viewer on a journey through Kalman’s life. Everything from her dog to her mother to her husband, Tibor Kalman, to the things they produced together at M&Co (their design firm) to the things they collected, such as onion rings that looked decades old.
It occurred to me, as I was walking through the exhibit: there’s a certain brilliance to that casual, whimsical style. Through her art she can talk about things in a way that’s not heartbreaking. That doesn’t make people angry. And so she can talk about everything. Take her drawing of the September 11 attacks, for example. Simple, colorful, even beautiful. And you see it. And you realize what it is. And you walk on to the next thing. That’s it.
Also, to be her, to l live that life of seeing and collecting and exploring and designing and creating at all times, must be amazing.
Here I am in the garden of the Skirball.
The building is surrounded by green hills and there is a quiet sort of lily pond in the courtyard. I thought it would be wonderful to sit there for a while. But it was raining, so we headed home instead.