Portraits in Creativity: Maira Kalman

Gael Towey's short doc on the ADC Hall of Famer premieres at Offset #ArtistConvos

On the 21st floor of the Empire State Building last night, Offset premiered the first in a series of #ArtistConvos with Gael Towey and Maira Kalman, featuring Towey’s new short film Portraits in Creativity: Maira Kalman and a talk about creativity, life and art.

Gael Towey was the founding Art Director behind the Martha Stewart Living empire, beginning in 1990 and ending her career there as the Chief Creative Officer in 2012. She has been awarded numerous ADC Cubes among countless other design awards and was recently the recipient of the AIGA medal for 2014.

Maira Kalman was inducted into the ADC Hall of Fame in 2008. Her paintings and illustrations frequently grace the covers and pages of The New Yorker magazine and she has published eighteen children’s books in addition to an illustrated edition of Strunk and White’s Elements of Style. Her online journal-style columns for the New York Times, The Principles of Uncertainty and And the Pursuit of Happiness, have also been collected in two books. Maira’s most recent book, Girls Standing on Lawns, is collaboration with the photography department at the Museum of Modern Art and Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket),

After watching the hilarious short, the audience got to hear Gael and Maira discuss the project and their creative careers.

In choosing her subjects for the Portraits in Creativity series, Gael is focusing on women who, unlike the subjects of many of the photographs and paintings in Girls Standing on Lawns,  “do know what to do with their hands,” she said. “The ability to have doubt, to go through a process, to have patience, and to live with an idea and to know how to identify it when it comes to you — that’s an incredible gift. These women are really masters of that,” Gael remarked.

“The combination of mastery of craft and doubt makes for great creativity.”

Maira emphasized the everyday nature of her practice, “waddling around the studio” and taking long walks to reset her mind if she’s lacking inspiration; she had a surprisingly realistic outlook for an artist whose work is so playful: “I think everybody is heroic who gets up in the morning and actually goes through the day.”

When asked to comment on how risk affects a creative career, Gael said she believes that all artists take risks every day by allowing themselves to fail. Maira echoed the sentiment, talking about the “terrifying” feeling when a new idea strikes: “And then you do it, and it’s ok. And then it happens again and you think you’re a fool for having another idea, but you can’t help it.”

“A fool can’t help having ideas.”

On the occasion of the reopening of the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in December 2014, Maira will be curating a collection of her favorite pieces in the museum as part of a guest curator series. In conjunction with the Maira Kalman Selects exhibit, she will be producing a book for adults called My Favorite Things as well as a book for children, Ah-Ha To Zig-Zag. Famed composer Nico Muhly will also be collaborating with a musical score to accompany the exhibit.

No mention was made of any future reprisals of Ms. Kalman’s duck costume or ballet skills. (But we can always hope!)

Thanks to @offsetimages for a wonderful evening. We’re looking forward to future #ArtistConvos!