Posted by: jeannineatkins | July 23, 2015

Roz Chast at the Norman Rockwell Museum

My husband gave me Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant when I thought I wasn’t in the mood. His mother was then very sick and requiring care. But the brave truth, humor, and poignance Roz Chast put into her illustrated memoir about the last years of her parents’ lives kept me reading into the night. So much seemed familiar, though her family is different from ours in many ways. The memoir’s acclaim includes being a National Book Award finalist and gasps of recognition from many of my friends.

Many original pages of this moving book, framed one above another, currently take up a big room in the Norman Rockwell Museum. I was glad I’d already read it, as I didn’t have to be so riveted to following the story, but could return to favorite parts. It was cool to see some “old fashioned” techniques looking close: lettering done with a rapidiograph pen, which I remembered an art student friend using back when we were in college, and cut and scotch-taped words and pictures arranging panels on the pages.


Other rooms show additional art of Roz Chast, who was raised by two educators and earned her degree at the University of Rhode Island, though she didn’t focus on cartooning there. After graduating, she moved back with her parents for a while and didn’t feel called to do anything besides using a mix of words and pictures to capture what she saw around her. She says she draws from small moments when she finds herself starting to smile. While she’s most known for her cartoons that have appeared regularly in the New Yorker, the exhibit also features picture books she wrote and illustrated, eggs painted like those for Ukrainian Easters, but in her own style, and handhooked rugs with more of her signature faces. Roz Chast says she thinks of “each loop as a pixel in a highly magnified computer image,” and in an effort to keep up elements of surprise, saves old wool strips of color to “toss into the mix.”

The exhibit celebrating work of thirty-seven years is open until October 26, so makes a great summer or leaf-peeping-season trip. And don’t forget to see the contemporary sculpture on gorgeous old lawns pretty much across the road at Chesterwood, where you can visit the studio of sculptor Daniel Chester French. Or drive a little further north and visit the Van Gogh and Nature exhibit (to Sept. 16) at the newly restored Clark museum, where the water lilies on the pond are blooming. It’s interesting to see what Van Gogh saw when he was outside of houses, not looking at neighbors or in mirrors. We get an overview from the dark paintings of his early years in Holland, to the bright days in Provence, and finally crows over cornfields.



  1. Oh my goodness, I shall have to get there soon, Jeannine! I loved the book, and heard her interviewed on Terri Gross, which was delightful. I think Williamstown is not too far away from where I am in upstate NY, and this would be a marvelous day trip.

    • I liked Roz Chast before, and this deepened my appreciation, so I hope you can get there. The Norman Rockwell museum is in Stockbridge (the Clark in Williamstown is likely closer to you) but all a pretty drive.
      I hope your new home offers lots of travel, and your walls are painted, etc, I’d LOVE to make a plan to meet in the Berkshires or somewhere closer to you.

  2. Oh, Jeannine, you’re a veritable travel guide! So many riches! So happy to learn of them.

    • Summer is too short to see and do all we want, but this show was especially inspiring with Roz Chast’s droll, honest look at life a theme throughout the galleries.

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