The Rural We: Maj Kalfus
Photo: Art School of Columbia County
Maj Kalfus has taken a circuitous route to get back to what she loves most: fine arts. She started her career as a fashion illustrator, but the retail industry was turning to photography, and there was no more work for fashion illustrators. Intrigued by the retail business, she worked in marketing, merchandising and shop development for several major department stores, plus working on brand development for Ralph Lauren and other companies. She lived near the Twin Towers, and then that fateful day happened.
After 9/11, I said, that’s it, I’m going back to my first love, illustrating and painting. For over 25 years, my husband and I had an old farmhouse a few blocks off Copake Lake, and we’ve lived here full time for 13 years. My husband, who’s a photographer, renovated the house and built a studio for each of us.
We lived in Leonia, New Jersey, and raised our daughters there. Then we moved into the city. That’s when I went back to art school, because I had never finished my degree. I went to Empire State College — the two-year arts program — and got my degree in my 50s. I was reinvigorated to do fine arts, and with the huge arts community up here, it’s not difficult to find like minds. I began to teach at Columbia Greene Community College, Berkshire Community College and the Hudson Opera House, and to sub at a high school. This has helped me to get to know the community better, which you can’t do as a weekender.
I do a lot of collage work and oil painting, and I’m known for my animals. I usually do a different project every year. One was the Women of Consequence show, with artwork featuring the Queen of England, Eleanor Roosevelt, Golda Meir and others. Then there’s the cartoon side of me. It comes naturally for me to do illustration. I started doing cartoons about four years ago for my friends, and then did a weekly cartoon for The Millerton News for a while.
In 2014, I was featured in a video series Prudential Insurance did with The New Yorker, highlighting people who experiment with their retirement years and try new careers and ideas. I got to work with the veteran cartoonist Mort Gerber and my work was included in the Best of 2014 Cartoons.
I’m always making art and doing shows. I’ll be showing in the farm-to-table themed exhibit at the Spencertown Academy in May, and at a lot of other galleries. I also teach private students in my studio.
The political cartoons that I post on my Instagram feed I do for self preservation. I create a lot of them on my iPad, in bed! I like not having the stress of deadlines.