We wanted to share the introduction Holly McGhee gave for Jeanne Steig, when she was anointed a Carle Angel on September 22, 2011:

Hi friends and colleagues,

It is decidedly one of the grandest honors of my life to introduce newly anointed Carle Angel Jeanne Steig to you tonight. Thanks to Nick Clark and Rebecca Goggins for asking me. I have had the distinct pleasure of holding Jeanne in my inner circle for the past twenty years. She is both an inspiration and a delight.

I became well-acquainted with Jeanne in the early 1990s, first when I visited her and Bill in Boston, to edit a picture book with Bill. Being in my twenties, with few responsibilities in the world, I was in the habit of sleeping as long as I liked. As the story goes, when Jeanne knocked on the guest room door at 9 or so the first morning, I said, “YOU’RE SO RUDE.” I do, in fact, vaguely remember saying it. But I more clearly remember the fact that it was never held against me. Rather, my morning routine was duly noted, and henceforth, I was not approached until I appeared at the breakfast table. Jeanne never judges—she simply embraces who you are, whoever you may be . . . And she finds humor where she goes. My comment was the point of many a laugh over the years.

Jeanne’s artwork astonishes me to this day, and I often look at the pieces I’ve acquired over the years—they always seem brand new—they never fail to make me feel pleased with the world because there is a backbone of joy and exuberance in all of them. That’s because Jeanne Steig has a rare talent for happiness and that rare talent is (literally) visible in each of her works.

I love the story of how she began making art.  Jeanne was in a big writer’s block (and what a fine writer she is with gorgeous works such as Alpha Beta Chowder, A Handful of Beans, A Gift from Zeus, and her latest, the wonderful essays you’ll find accompanying Bill’s art in the book just published by Charlie Kochman at Abrams: Cats, Dogs, Men, Women, Ninnies, and Clowns: The Lost Art of William Steig—it is a must read!). Anyway, Jeanne was having trouble writing, and Bill said to her, “I love being with you, but you can’t write all day. It’s not healthy to sit on your ass and write all day. You have to do something with your hands.” And thus began Jeanne’s junk art, in which she uses at turns wood, metal, paper, and whatever she finds on the street that catches her eye.

I remember my satisfaction one year at coming up with the perfect gift for her. We were getting a new roof on our house, and these marvelous pieces of black tar-like stuff were all over the driveway. Who but Jeanne would love to receive a giant box of roof pieces. And she did. I’ve taken my own children as well as my nephews on Junk Hunts, and we’ve mailed our exquisite findings to Jeanne, knowing that each little piece would be studied as if it were the finest Venetian glass. Like Bill, she always finds something extraordinary in the ordinary. Like Bill, she always finds something worthy, but is not afraid to acknowledge the unworthy.

Jeanne taught me something incredibly important, about art and life. She told me that if you love the pieces you own, they’ll be happy together. I was at the time making a gallery of artwork in my stairwell, which is two stories high and about fifteen feet across. How right she was—you can’t go wrong when you surround yourself with those you love, whether people or works of art. The fact that you love them is the thread that holds them together—nothing is ever out of place when you’re true to what you love.

And I surely love Jeanne.  So much so that I always bring her Jewish rye bread, with seeds, not sliced (if it’s sliced, Fuggeddaboudit), and I forgive her for only offering skinny toast with jelly for breakfast (she is a little bit stubborn sometimes). From our work at HarperCollins, to our work at my agency, Pippin, to our walks with Bill all around Boston, to their joint exhibits from Provincetown to the Norman Rockwell to the wonderful Carle, to our thrill for each hour we find to share, she has always been my fairy godmother, she has always looked forward, her heart must be enormous for all that it holds, and the world is a far richer place for having her in it.

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