Sunday, February 1, 2009

Maira Kalman on the Inauguration

A few days ago, Maira Kalman contributed her take on President Barack Obama's inauguration, as an eyewitness illustrator-writer-poet. It is beautiful! Maira Kalman chronicles her journey to and in D.C. through the sites that struck her eyes and soul. I love the immediacy with which she records and translates her perceptions- her art and words are direct, honest, and feel like they come from an open heart and mind. While they are not photographs, they have a quality to them that brings to mind the words of Photographer Walker Evans: “Whether he is an artist or not, the photographer is a joyous sensualist, for the simple reason that the eye traffics in feelings, not in thoughts.”
We all saw this next image broadcast on TV or the internet, and had feelings about it-- I mentioned it in my previous entry, but Maira Kalman's version, by virtue of that she spent time with it, re-creating it in paint, says more. To me, this image is saying "I was there, watching this too! and so was this tree! and the sky! and this our feeling about it."

In this series, Maira Kalman pays attention to both nature and human culture, with a celebratory curiosity. Another artist whom I have admired and loved for many years, for a similar kind of seeing is Alice Neel. I will write about Alice Neel in her own entry, but had to tie her in here, because I get an Alice Neel feeling from some of the more directly observational pieces in Kalman's Inauguration series.

It's very touching to me how Maira Kalman chose the subjects the details of her Inauguration Adventure to communicate the excitement, joy and liberation that she felt in this event. She took us on a tour of her experience, but has tapped into the creativity of the people (historic and present) and the natural world that she felt were vibrating with the spirit of the day.
In this series and in her work in editorial illustration and children's books, Maira Kalman gives her audience a 'hit' of her tremendous creative life-force, which gives us all permission to create and be alive along similar lines-- it's as if she is sharing a deep-rooted language of creativity which we can all tap into if we would allow it. I believe it is for this, her smarts, humor, skill and wisdom, that Maira Kalman is a much-beloved artist/author in today's world. Thank you Maira!