In her own hand, the title of her book “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?” by Roz Chast
Hey, New Yorkers, are we really defined by our obsessions, anxieties, quirks and values? Not to worry. Roz Chast: Cartoon Memoirs, which opened today at The Museum of the City of New York, explores the lighter side of our offbeat sensibilities. With more than 200 works, some of which have never been published, Roz chronicles the follies of contemporary urban life in our city. Her illustrations and captions, written in her own hand, are a personal examination of what it means to be a New Yorker, and what makes stressed-out city dwellers eccentric, awkward and even uncomfortable. Roz explained that her cartoons tell the story of things that have happened in her life, but if you live in New York, you are sure to recognize yourself somewhere in this exhibit.
The exhibit is organized into five sections that will take you from her work In the The New Yorker, on to the World of Roz Chast, and When You Live In New York. With much trepidation, you arrive at You Are Now Leaving New York, and finally her Cartoon Memoirs. The exhibit was originally presented at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, and is a co-presentation of the Museum of the City of New York and the Norman Rockwell Museum.
Roz Chast in front of her finished canvas, Subway Sofa
It goes without saying that Roz Chast grew up in New York. Her parents were first generation New Yorkers, who were both raised in the tenements of East Harlem, where they met in fifth grade. They grew up to become educators, married, and moved to Brooklyn, where Roz was born into the lower-middle-class neighborhood of Kensington/Parkview. She has been drawing cartoons since she was a child. After graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1978, she dropped off a portfolio of original drawings at The New Yorker Magazine where one was selected. The cartoon editor left her a note to come back every week, and so she did.
New Restaurants in Midtown, Illustration for The New Yorker, July 2, 2001
Since then, over 1,200 of her works have been published by the magazine. She is The New Yorker’s first major contemporary female cartoonist, and went on to secure her first New Yorker cover in 1986. Since then, she has created eighteen more covers for the magazine. Her cartoons have also been published in many other magazines, including Scientific American, the Harvard Business Review, Redbook, and Mother Jones. She has authored several books including Theories of Everything: Selected, Collected and Health-Inspected Cartoons of Roz Chast, 1978-2006, The Alphabet from A to Y, with Bonus Letter, Z (a children’s book she co-authored with Steve Martin), and Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, 2014.
Continuing with a plethora of artistic endeavors, she also has a rich artistic life beyond cartoons. She draws on labor-intensive crafts such as painted Pysanky eggs, hand-hooked rugs, and the creation of little books, reflecting her fascination with miniaturization and alternate avenues of storytelling. In the above photo, Roz shares hand-painted eggs that ended up being a cover of The New Yorker Magazine, entitled Cartoon Pysanky. The decorated Easter eggs are often created for Ukrainian religious occasions, and believed to have talismanic powers. Roz has made the practice of creating her storytelling eggs in a free-form style of her own.
Yes, No, Maybe, 2013 Hand-hooked rug
She learned the traditional craft of hand-hooked rug making from noted rug artist Leslie Giuliani. She will tell you that she enjoys the challenge of composing with bold shapes, borders, pattern and lettering, and thinks of each loop of her hooked rugs as a pixel in a highly magnified computer image. Her hand-hooked rugs are featured in the images above and below.
One of Roz’s many hand-hooked rugs
Handmade mini book of New York City
She enjoys portraying the city in miniature, and what better way to do it then with the hand guide she created (above) for her daughter, when she moved to the city to attend college. This mini book inspired one of Roz’s current works-in-progress, a long-form, full-sized, illustrated book about New York City, which is on view on an iPad at the exhibit.
Included in the exhibit is a photo of Roz with her father in her early years, and an illustration of The Wheel of Doom, tales from her childhood
Roz Chast in her studio in Connecticut
Interestingly enough, Roz has lived in suburban Connecticut since 1990, but the inner New Yorker in her still maintains the ability to create with great detail and accuracy the character illustrations that are our beloved typical New Yorker. Roz Chast: Cartoon Memoirs will be on view from April 14 through October 9, with accompanying programming which will include An Evening with Cartoonist Roz Chast on Friday, May 6 at 7 pm; Funny Ladies: Four New Yorker Cartoonists on Wednesday, June 29 at 6:30 pm with Liza Donnelly, Liana Finck, Marisa Acocella Marchetto, and Barbara Smaller; New Yorker Cartoons: Past, Present & Future on Thursday, September 8 at 6:30 pm with Bob Mankoff, and her book event, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? on Wednesday, September 21 at 6:30 pm.
We were lucky enough to be able to watch as Roz created the Subway Sofa mural for this exhibit
Next, Explore the History of Yiddish Theater in NYC and check out 4 Cartoons with NYC Inspired Settings from the ’90s: Spiderman, Superman, Batman, Hey Arnold! You can contact the author at AFineLyne.