Building on a limited edition booklet of work that she released last year, titled Women Holding Things, American artist Maira Kalman has published another book of the same name, featuring all of the images from the original, plus 67 new pieces. Working with the same concept, Kalman explores the complexity of women’s lives, understanding their roles in society and the various responsibilities and objects that they ‘hold’.
From physical things such as children and food to more abstract examples including sorrow, disappointment, joy and love, Kalman depicts women as keepers, protectors, dreamers, burden-bearers, and the many other roles they choose or are forced into.
Following on in style from the original booklet, Maira’s paintings are composed mainly of portraits and vignettes, showing women in various poses and situations, with the odd landscape here and there. Many are colourful and have a sketchbook quality to them, making them feel warm and relatable.
The subjects themselves belong to various periods in history, from the late 18th century through to the modern day and span ordinary people as well as women of renown, including author Virginia Woolf, enslaved woman Sally Hemings, artist’s model Hortense Cezanne, and writer Gertrude Stein. Even the women from Kalman’s own family have found their way into the pages.
This range is fitting, given that Kalman’s intention with the book is to speak to a universal understanding of womanhood. Like much of her work on the human condition, Women Holding Things presents common truths in a new light, helping us to reappraise, challenge and celebrate them.
Women Holding Things is published by HarperDesign, an imprint of Harper Collins; harpercollins.co.uk