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Weather, Weather: Maira Kalman and Daniel Handler’s Lyrical Illustrated Celebration of the Elements

A dreamlike meditation on our elemental companion.

Weather, Weather: Maira Kalman and Daniel Handler’s Lyrical Illustrated Celebration of the Elements

Certain languages, including French and my native Bulgarian, have one word for both “time” and “weather.” Perhaps the conflation arises from an inescapable similarity — like time, which envelops the entirety of our conscious experience, the weather is the indelible backdrop against which our lives are lived, constantly coloring our state of mind and saturating our language with myriad metaphors.

The abiding mystery and magic of our elemental companion is what artist Maira Kalman and writer Daniel Handler celebrate in Weather, Weather — the third installment in their series of dreamlike picture-books for grownups in collaboration with the Museum of Modern Art, following Hurry Up and Wait, which explored the delicate art of presence in the age of productivity, and Girls Standing on Lawns, a work of unconcretizable aboutness and absolute delight.

Once again, Kalman and Handler curate a selection of artworks from the museum’s collection around a theme — in this case, the weather. These photographs of physical environments from around the world pour forth their cascading meanings, relished differently with each contemplation. Handler’s poetic prose and Kalman’s original watercolors string the archival images together into a lyrical meditation on the role of the elements in the human experience. Art and life intersect with largehearted levity in the result of this imaginative and unusual collaboration.

Illustration by Maira Kalman, based on Hatsuo Ikeuchi’s Snowflakes, c. 1950.  (Courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art © Maira Kalman)
Illustration by Maira Kalman, based on Hatsuo Ikeuchi’s Snowflakes, c. 1950. (Courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art © Maira Kalman)
László Moholy-Nagy: The Diving Board, 1931. (Courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Anonymous gift. © 2016 Artists Rights Society, New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn)
László Moholy-Nagy: The Diving Board, 1931. (Courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Anonymous gift. © 2016 Artists Rights Society, New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn)
Illustration by Maira Kalman, based on Man Diving, Esztergom by André Kertész, 1917. (Courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art © Maira Kalman)
Illustration by Maira Kalman, based on Man Diving, Esztergom by André Kertész, 1917. (Courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art © Maira Kalman)

I was in my room wondering what it was like somewhere else.

What’s the weather like?

It’s like summer. It’s like doing nothing.

Delicious.

Illustration by Maira Kalman, based on Alfred Stieglitz's Apples and Gable, Lake George, 1922.  (Courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art © Maira Kalman)
Illustration by Maira Kalman, based on Alfred Stieglitz’s Apples and Gable, Lake George, 1922. (Courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art © Maira Kalman)
International News Photo: “The Portent of Coming Disaster: A Tornado, Photographed as It Moved across the Sky toward White, S.D., by a Cameraman Who Was the Only Person Who Did Not Take Shelter in a Cyclone Cellar. None of the Buildings Shown in the Picture Was Damaged, as They Were Not in the Direct Path of the Tornado,” 1938. (Courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art, New York. The New York Times Collection. © 2016 International News Photo)
International News Photo: “The Portent of Coming Disaster: A Tornado, Photographed as It Moved across the Sky toward White, S.D., by a Cameraman Who Was the Only Person Who Did Not Take Shelter in a Cyclone Cellar. None of the Buildings Shown in the Picture Was Damaged, as They Were Not in the Direct Path of the Tornado,” 1938. (Courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art, New York. The New York Times Collection. © 2016 International News Photo)

The newspaper said it would be nice today.

What does the newspaper know.

Carl T. Gosset Jr./ The New York Times: “This Photo Was Made Just before 4 P.M.  at Broadway and 43rd Street, Looking East across Times Square.” July 24, 1959. (Courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art, New York. The New York Times Collection. © 2016 The New York Times)
Carl T. Gosset Jr./ The New York Times: “This Photo Was Made Just before 4 P.M. at Broadway and 43rd Street, Looking East across Times Square.” July 24, 1959. (Courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art, New York. The New York Times Collection. © 2016 The New York Times)
Illustration by Maira Kalman, based on Barney Ingoglia’s photograph for the New York Times article “Rain Raises Fears of Flooding: Pedestrians in Times Square Wading through a Puddle as Heavy Rains Began Yesterday. The Rain Was Expected to Continue Today, Melting Much of the Snow and Causing Fears of Flooding,” January 25, 1978.  (Courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art © Maira Kalman)
Illustration by Maira Kalman, based on Barney Ingoglia’s photograph for the New York Times article “Rain Raises Fears of Flooding: Pedestrians in Times Square Wading through a Puddle as Heavy Rains Began Yesterday. The Rain Was Expected to Continue Today, Melting Much of the Snow and Causing Fears of Flooding,” January 25, 1978. (Courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art © Maira Kalman)
Clarence H. White: Drops of Rain, 1903. (Courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Mrs. Mervyn Palmer. © Clarence H. White)
Clarence H. White: Drops of Rain, 1903. (Courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Mrs. Mervyn Palmer. © Clarence H. White)
Illustration by Maira Kalman, based on Children Playing in Snow by John Vachon, 1940. (Courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art © Maira Kalman)
Illustration by Maira Kalman, based on Children Playing in Snow by John Vachon, 1940. (Courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art © Maira Kalman)
Illustration by Maira Kalman, based on Henri Cartier-Bresson’s Alberto Giacometti Going Out for Breakfast, Paris, 1963.
Illustration by Maira Kalman, based on Henri Cartier-Bresson’s Alberto Giacometti Going Out for Breakfast, Paris, 1963.

I can’t even say what it’s like. It’s perfect, the whole thing. Come with me, take me with you. Let’s go out together and have poached eggs.

Delicious.

Valery Shchekoldin: Uliyanovsk, 1978. (Courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art, New York. The Family of Man Fund. © 2016 Valery Shchekoldin)
Valery Shchekoldin: Uliyanovsk, 1978. (Courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art, New York. The Family of Man Fund. © 2016 Valery Shchekoldin)

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Complement the tiny fabric-bound treasure Weather, Weather with Kalman’s Beloved Dog, an illustrated homage to a constant companion of a very different sort, then revisit artist Lauren Redniss’s exquisite celebration of the weather.


Published December 1, 2016

https://www.brainpickings.org/2016/12/01/weather-weather-maira-kalman-daniel-handler-moma/

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