The CJM is pleased to present the only appearance of Roz Chast’s Cartoon Memoirs retrospective exhibition outside of New York and Massachusetts. Chast is one of the most celebrated and beloved cartoonists working in the United States today; she has been publishing with The New Yorker since 1978. Her 2014 graphic memoir Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? deals with the difficult subject of caring for aging parents. It was a National Book Award finalist and won the National Book Critics’ Circle Award for Autobiography. Chast has said, “My parents’ lives were so interesting to me that I did not want to forget, and I eventually found myself developing a story with a beginning, middle, and end. Some of the stories that emerged were sort of hilarious, but also heartbreaking, and they became a record of my experience with them.”
While Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? forms the basis of the exhibition (every one of the approximately 150 drawings in the original book will be on view), there is a great deal more: dozens of Chast’s original cartoons and covers for The New Yorker, as well as cartoon illustrations for her own and other writers’ books for both children and adults; rugs made by the artist; and personal material related to her parents. There will also be a video interview with the artist; a video of her at work on a life-sized mural; and a walk-in, life-sized recreation of one of her cartoons.
The exhibition was organized and debuted at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Massachusetts in June 2015, traveled to the Museum of the City of New York in 2016 and makes its Western debut at The CJM.
Chast is a nationally respected Jewish artist whose work often touches on her family, parents, the ironies of everyday life, and Jewish psychology. Both of Chast’s parents were first generation children of Russian Jewish immigrants. She is not religious but has said, “On some deep level, I identify as a Jew. I don’t know exactly what that means. Maybe feeling a little bit like an outsider. And that no matter how much I assimilate, there will always be something about me that will not fit in.”
Her parents didn’t talk to her about religion. Her mother lit Shabbat candles later in her life and her father loved traditional Jewish food. Chast has also related her parents’ unwillingness to talk about death. She has said, “Between their one-bad-thing-after-another lives and the Depression and World War II, and the Holocaust, in which they’d both lost family—it was amazing that they weren’t crazier than they were. Who could blame them for not wanting to talk about death?”
Born in Brooklyn, she graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design. In addition to The New Yorker, her cartoons have appeared in numerous other publications including The Village Voice, Scientific American, the Harvard Business Review, and Mother Jones. Her book and artwork were also recognized with a Heinz Award for Arts and Humanities in 2015.