Showing posts with label women. Show all posts
Showing posts with label women. Show all posts

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Ann Telnaes Q&A at Politics and Prose


IMG_20180124_190746_672After she read Trump's ABC, her new book of caricatures about the administration, Ann Telnaes took questions from the audience for about thirty minutes. With her permission, I've transcribed them.

I’ll tell you a little about his book came about. I did not plan to do an ABC book. I had done a lot of sketches in 2016, especially during the primaries and debates, and I originally tried to get a book published of those sketches. My book agent went around, still during the primaries when most people thought Hillary was going to win the presidency (myself included), and couldn’t get any interest. People were already tired of it, and thought Hillary was going to win, so the feedback from publishers was, “We’d like to see a Hillary book.” I thought, “Ok, I can try that – this will be interesting - first female president” – but for some reason, I had this nagging feeling and I just couldn’t come up with something. Of course then the election happened and most of us were surprised, and I thought everybody would be interested in a Trump book. But you’d be amazed at how many publishers didn’t want to do a Trump book – at least an editorial cartooning book.

I put it aside and I happened to take a road trip down to Savannah during the holidays. I had a nine hour drive down and a nine hour drive back. I was driving, because my dog doesn’t, and I didn’t have my hands free to do any sketches. I was thinking about a suggestion a friend had given me, which was to do a political ABC book. Since my hands weren’t free, I put my phone on, and started to recite, “A is for blah, B is for blah...” and I kept doing that all the way down to Savannah and all the way back up. By the time I got back to D.C. I had a book.

Which was amazing, because the hardest thing for me is to let go and let that new thing happen. When you get something in your head – I had a different type of book in my head – but once I let go of it, and I went with what I was thinking, it just came. That was a surprise, a nice surprise. I took a few hours and did some sketching. By chance I was giving a talk at the Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont, and I was talking to James Sturm the co-founder of the college. He looked at my sketches and said, “I’ll put you in touch with Fantagraphics.” I had an email exchange with publisher Gary Groth and it was great. He said, “Yeah, let’s do it” and that’s how the book came to be.

The rhymes were done by the beginning of 2017, and the artwork was finished by May, and I was a little concerned that it wouldn’t hold up. There are some things that obviously aren’t in here, but I’m pretty pleased with it. I’m happy I did it.


Q: How has your image of Trump changed as he’s gone from being the joke candidate to being the actual president? How has your portrayal changed? I know the tie has gotten longer.
IMG_20180124_191508_027
Yes, the tie is wonderful. The tie is the prop that keeps on giving. I’m still playing with that tie.
You know, I didn’t really think of him too much as a joke in the beginning. I had done a couple of Trump cartoons before when he ran earlier that were more joke-like, but when he announced this time, I actually did a cartoon where he was saying, “Me, me, me” all the time, because his run for president was all about him. I think in terms of how he looks physically – to me caricatures are more about who the person is. The more that I listen to him, and the more that I realize that this is all about him, that has developed my caricature.

A difference in the last couple of years is that I’ve gone back to doing colors by hand instead of on the computer. Watercolor is a wonderful medium for accidents. I don’t even know how to use watercolor, but it doesn’t matter.

Q: On your road trip where you composed the book, did you have any ideas that were too angry or obscene to include, and if so, will you share them now?

Probably, but I don’t remember them. Actually, it’s amazing. Except for a couple of letters, I pretty much kept to it. The only one I remember going back and forth on was the “K is for Killing without a new plan,” about Obamacare. At that time, they were just in the middle of trying to kill it and I wasn’t sure if I should say they killed it, or didn’t, so I decided that they’d try to kill it, but they still haven’t killed it yet.

Q: Would you consider doing sequels for other years if he lasts that long? Every day there’s some new crazy story…

Oh god. You’re right. The only thing I find wanting in this book is that there’s other things I want to address. Maybe I can do a counting book.

Obviously I had to make a decision what I was going to do for each letter, and there were certain things I wanted to make sure I got in there, like the separation of powers, and I had to include something about his appearance and his hair, even though that’s kind of silly. People would notice if that wasn’t in there. I wanted to hit specific things. Using “pussy” was deliberate on my part – this is something new. I work for the Washington Post, and I had to ask if I could use that word. I can tell you that they wouldn’t have allowed me to use it in any other situation, but once the President says it, I’m allowed to use it. And now I use it.

Yes, now for another book I could use “shithole countries.”

Q: Since Trump is famously thin-skinned, do you know to what extent he has objected to your cartoons?

Let’s broaden that and say, “Has he reacted to any editorial cartoonists?” Not that I know.  I honestly think it’s because the man doesn’t read. He gets his information from television. We’re not on television and I think that’s the reason he has noticed us. There’s been plenty of work out there that has been hard-hitting against him.

Q: Did Fantagraphics come up with the board book format, or was that something you came into the deal with?

No, actually that was something they had to sell me on. I draw very large, and I tend to want my work printed large. At first I thought it would be a bigger book, but I had a really great designer, Jacob Covey, and he and Gary Groth were both telling me that we needed to do this as a board book. I said, “I don’t know, that’s kind of small,” but when I saw it and held it my hand, I thought, “Yeah, this will work!” I’m really pleased that they convinced me to do it this way because I think it’s perfect.

I draw large. The reason I draw large is because I have an art background. We were encouraged in art school during life drawing classes to draw from the shoulder and not from the wrist. So I’m always doing this [as she makes a big sweeping motion with her arm]. I always feel I draw better larger. It takes more time, but I feel I get a better end product.

Q: The rhyming flows well – was that hard to do?

I’m not a writer. Maybe because I was in the car… I had a lot of time. I said a lot of things over and over, but I’m not a writer. I think because I was raised on Dr. Seuss books that might have helped me a little bit. It’s not perfect, but it worked.

Q: As a journalist, how do you process all the ongoing controversies? Do you ever tune it out?

I have to be honest with you – ever since Trump became President, I just feel the need to draw. I’ve been drawing editorial cartoons for 25 years, and even though I did a lot of cartoons criticizing the Bush administration, and I didn’t agree with their policies, this is a completely different situation for me. It’s a dangerous time. I wake up every morning just wanting to draw. I have to decide what to draw and that is one thing that I’ve made a conscious effort about. There’s a lot of silliness, and with social media, that tends to spiral out of control sometimes, so I try to make sure I’m criticizing actions and policy decisions and not just stupid things he says. Things that have consequences are what I try to do; I don’t know if I’m always successful at that. Personally, I’m having trouble sleeping lately because I’m thinking about it. That is one thing I do. I don’t watch the evening news after the PBS Newshour. I stop, because then my mind is racing for the rest of the evening. But that’s the only personal struggle that I have.

Q: I’ll put you on the spot - where do you see this all ending up?

I think it’s going to go on for a while. I really do. There was a short time right after he became president where I thought “Maybe this is going to be over quickly.” The problem is, and this is what I do my most critical cartoons on, the Republican leadership is the enablers. They are the reason we are still at this point. They have decided that they are going to keep this man in office as long as he is useful to them. And unfortunately, I think that the way Trump operates, and what he responds to, and what he wants out of this… it’s going to be a back-and-forth situation. We’re just going to have to roll along with it. Unfortunately, I think it’s going to take a while.

Q: For a cartoonist, it must be very tempting to hop on the hot-button stuff, the craziness and the complete nuttiness and not the more complicated stuff about the state of the Environmental Protection Agency and political contributions. How do you find a way to make the more complex issues visual?

I take a lot of notes. It’s really a question of what am I going to address today. And make sure I keep the ones that I may go back to later. It is more difficult to do an editorial cartoon about a complicated thing. The EPA is a great example – they’re gutting it. They are gutting it. And people don’t realize the extent of it until they turn their faucets on and they have dirty water. I try to address those things, but when TV is talking about the recent silliness, then that’s what people are paying attention to.

Q: Are there other members of the administration that are iconically recognizable that you can build a cartoon around?

Oh, I love drawing Pence. Pence is one of those examples where I think my cartoon doesn’t really look like him, but it is him. I’ve done Sarah Huckabee – she’s interesting. There’s a lot of good characters in this administration. I drew them in G – grabbing pusy. The KKK guy [in the background] was the last thing I put in the book, because it was right as Charlottesville was happening. The [G-H] spread kept getting more and more people in it and I was so thankful when Scaramucci dropped out. I was like, “Where am I going to put him?” and I just didn’t have to. I stuck Comey in here, because it was the time when he got fired, and everyone said he’s a hero, but they failed to remember that he’s the one that decided to announce that he was reopening an investigation into Hillary. So that’s why I stuck half of him in there.
IMG_20180124_190545_189Q: I wanted to thank you for ending the book on a positive note.

It wasn’t intentional [laughing]. I showed it to a close friend when I first got it, and she said, “You ended it on a positive note. That’s not you.” Z is hard. Zebra or Zen?

Q: Do you now see Trump as wrong, or as evil? If the latter, will that affect your drawing? You draw him as funny-stupid person versus an evil person.

I draw the Republican leadership as evil. I think he’s an opportunist deep down. I think he’s got a lot of faults and he’s an opportunist in the worst sense. He’ll say anything to get what he wants, and he’s got a lot of people around him that are enabling him to do that. And let’s face it – he’s a 71-year-old man. That’s him.

Q: To what extent do you get requests from the editorial board of The Post, or readers, or is it just what you want to do? Do they ever make requests?

No. I come up with the idea and run it by them. They’ve always let me decide what I want to cartoon on. They’ve nixed a few things. Around the time of the Charlottesville protests and killing, I came up with an idea they wouldn’t allow me to do because I think they were concerned about the tenor of the country. I think if I had offered that idea at any other time, it probably would have gone through. Sometimes they have to think about that.

Q: Does The Post have right of first refusal? Or are they your syndicate?

No, I’m not syndicated. I’m exclusive to The Post. I do other work, for The Nib occasionally, but they have the first rights. I did that cartoon for The Nib; they ran it.

Q: Have you been threatened?

By people? Oh yes. All cartoonists get threatened at some point or another. After 9/11 was a difficult time. I did a cartoon about Senator Cruz and I got a lot of threats for that. I think when everyone’s emotions are running high are when you get the most. But mostly we get emails telling us how stupid we are.

Q: Could you talk about becoming a political cartoonist, and then if you have the desire to move out and do other forms of illustration?

Sometimes. [laughs] It depends. I actually started in school for animation. I went to California Institute of the Arts, and studied character animation in the traditional Disney style and I worked for a few years in the animation industry. I had no interest in politics whatsoever. I didn’t read newspapers. I lived in LA – why do you need to read newspapers? One night I was doing a freelance project and I had the television on, and the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989 happened right in front of my eyes and I think that woke me up. I became more and more interested in political events, and watching C-SPAN a lot, and I just started doing my own editorial cartoons. Then what finally caused me to decide that I wanted to be an editorial cartoonist was watching the Anita Hill / Clarence Thomas hearings in 1991.

I was a young woman, in my late twenties, and I had dealt with sexual harassment myself and I knew perfectly well it was a problem. To watch a bunch of senators up there, both conservative and liberals, and say that it couldn’t possibly have happened and they didn’t believe Anita Hill made me decide I needed to become an editorial cartoonist. So you can thank those senators; they’re the reason I’m an editorial cartoonist.

Q: What’s your sense of how the #MeToo movement is going to affect the 2018 elections?

Let’s hope it does. Women are mad. I speak to my friends who are my age, and they’re mad, really mad. I hope so because I think it’s about time. It’s funny to hear people to talk about sexual harassment and sexual discrimination. There’s all forms. I’ve dealt with it my entire career. I laugh when I hear people express doubt about it. Every woman has gone through it one way or another. It’s not all rape, but it’s a lot of forms of assault.

I’m going to give a personal example that I’ve never told anywhere. I’m in my fifties. When I had just turned fifty, I was walking down the streets of Washington, D.C. in broad daylight and I had a guy come up from behind and grab me like Trump grabs people. In broad daylight. I’m not a young woman. I was floored. To deal with the police after that? Two female policeman took down everything and did nothing. I was furious. That’s just unacceptable. It was some thirty-something year old guy just thinking he could do it. It’s a problem. And it’s not just for young women, it’s for older women too. There – now I’m really mad.

Q: Is Fantagraphics sending you on a book tour for this?

Yes, I’m going west. I’m going to first start in LA, then to Oakland, then Pixar (where a lot of my old colleagues from CalArts work), and then finish up at Fantagraphics in Seattle in February.

More pictures from the evening can be seen at Bruce Guthrie's site. If you want to see how large her drawings are, original cartoons by Ann can be seen at the Library of Congress in the Drawn to Purpose exhibit or in the Hay-Adams Hotel's Off the Record bar.  An article about the bar and the cartoonists (that I wrote and interviewed Ann for) will be in the upcoming issue of White House History magazine. Ann's previous book, Dick, about Vice President Cheney can be bought online and is highly recommended. Three styles of t-shirts with Ann's cartoons on them can be bought at Amazon.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Touring the LoC's Drawn to Purpose exhibit with curator Martha Kennedy


Anita Kunz
by Mike Rhode

Last November, the Library of Congress opened a new show in the historic Jefferson building on women cartoonists and illustrators, curated by Martha Kennedy of the Prints & Photographs Division. Martha has a long-standing interest in the subject, and works in the division that collects original art (in spite of its name). She’s previously curated a show and book of Ann Telnaes’ work, but this is the first exhibit to look at the wide world of women artists. The online description of the show reads: 

Features the rich collections of the Library of Congress and brings to light remarkable but little-known contributions made by North American women to the art forms of illustration and cartooning. Spanning the late 1800s to the present, the exhibition highlights the gradual broadening in both the private and public spheres of women’s roles and interests, and demonstrates that women once constrained by social conditions and convention, have gained immense new opportunities for self-expression and discovery. 

Martha was kind enough to give me a tour of the exhibit one day recently. The exhibit is in the Swann Gallery of the Jefferson Building, and will have two rotations of artwork, and an accompanying book.



Martha Kennedy: The show reflects a new approach to exhibit design here at the Library, in that you don’t see item by item labels. We have additional information on each piece on sheets at the entrance. The kind of design being used gives greater visual emphasis to the artworks themselves, and groups highly-varied kinds of illustrations and cartoons in ways that makes sense. The exhibit introduction defines six types of illustration and cartooning that are being highlighted. The exhibit is clearly intended to celebrate the contributions that women have made to both of these art forms, roughly from the late 19th century into the 21st century. We’re doing this by showing some of the very best examples of these art forms held in the Library’s collections.




We have in the Themes and Genres introduction examples of the six different kinds of illustration and cartooning that we’re featuring in the exhibition. The types are Golden Age illustration, early comics, new voices in comics, editorial illustration, magazine covers and cartoons, and political cartoons. This grouping overall also shows the two main threads running through the exhibition: 1.) how imagery of women and gender roles and relations changes over time; and 2.) how the subject matter broadens and quickens especially near the end of the 20th century and into the 21st century. These threads you’ll see in the groupings to various degrees.

For the Golden Age of illustration, we have Alice Barber Stevens showing the new woman, a social phenomenon of the end of the 19th century, as two aspiring artists. For early comics, a page of Little Lulu by Marge originally published in the Saturday Evening Post. Anita Kunz is our example of an editorial illustrator’s work; she carries on the theme of how the images of women change. This dates from 2001 and was commissioned by Working Women Magazine and shows the quandary of everyday women still today, seventeen years later. The cell phones are a little out of date, but a lot of women still feel fragmented in their lives. Barbara Brandon Croft is our example of new voices in comics greatly broadening the subject matter of women’s concerns with her strip “Where I’m Coming From” that ran in the ‘90s. For magazine cartoons and covers, Roberta MacDonald did a wonderful New Yorker magazine cartoon from the wartime 1940s depicting role reversal during World War II. Finally, we have a beautiful example of Ann Telnaes’ editorial cartooning created just after 9/11. It’s just a sparkling example of her cartooning and really succinct text and commentary. 


Mike Rhode: How did you decide to do an exhibit on women cartoonists and illustrators?

Martha Kennedy: I’ve been working on this project for quite a while. When I first started, I remember being really impressed by the quality of work by women in different parts of the collection in Prints & Photographs. And also amazed and saddened by the fact that a lot of these women aren’t known. They’ve been overlooked in the histories of both art forms. I could see that there was collection development work and acquisitions to be done in both of those areas, and I have worked to build up those areas.

Mike Rhode: So the Telnaes art came in during your time, as you did an exhibit of her work. I remember when you brought Anita Kunz in to speak.



Martha Kennedy: Yes, and the some of the others were in the stacks, like Roberta MacDonald who deserves to be better known. But out of this exhibit, I acquired art by Gillespie, Barry, Price, Bechdel, Jetter, Chast, Wilkinson, Sherman, Benson, Mergen (over 600 drawings), and from rotation 2, Donnelly, Beck, and Tamaki.

Mike Rhode: How did you decide who to include in the show and the book? Was it women represented in the collection of the Library?

Martha Kennedy: Yes, it’s entirely collection-based. What we have in the collections is what inspired me to do a project of this kind and scope. I worked on it for years. This has been a special focus for me, even though previous curators had built up wonderful holdings of some of these artists. I have worked hard to add to and strengthen the holdings of work by women.




The next grouping focuses on the Golden Age of Illustration which dates roughly from 1880 to 1930. A lot of women ended up working in children’s books or fashion illustrating. Some exceptional ones branched out and illustrated works of literature in books or short stories in magazines aimed at adult readers. For example, Mary Hallock Foote is an interesting figure. She did most of her work in the west. Her husband was a mining engineer, and when they got married in the 1870s, she went west with him. She already had established a career and had good contacts; she knew the editor of Scribner’s and Century Magazine and continued illustrating, and then writing. She’s someone who should be better known. She took wood-engraving blocks with her that she worked on. Jessie Gillespie should be better known too. She did fashion illustration early on, and we show a 1914 satirical fashion illustration of women wearing pants.






Mike Rhode: 100 years later, her drawing would still work as a standalone illustration, if slightly redrawn.

Martha Kennedy: She’s also recognized as an incredible silhouette artist. We have some of those too, which are fairly newly acquired.

Mike Rhode: Even though the work is 100 years old, she wasn’t in the collection before?

Martha Kennedy: No, and we have a stunning piece of advertising art by her that will be in the second rotation. There will be two rotations of this show; the second one will go up in May. We will end up having about 40 artists represented overall with 70 works which is just a fraction of what we have.

Mike Rhode: Will it be a complete rotation?

Martha Kennedy: It will be. Some artists from the first version will also be in the second – people like Lynda Barry, Allison Bechdel and Lynn Johnston.
 
Our next grouping is Early Comics. Women found it hard to enter the comic strip field in the late 19th century and tended to be channeled into a narrow range of subjects if they were successful and featured babies, cute children and animals in their strips. Rose O’Neill’s comic strip The Kewpies is just an incredible example, I think. She just raised the bar for that kind of comic strip. Our example is a 1935 Sunday page, from when she revived the strip which originally ran 1917-1918 and then 1934-1935.

Mike Rhode: She’s working very large and is using two pages of paper to make one page of artwork.

Martha Kennedy: It’s incredible to see her at the height of her powers and her drawing technique is so accomplished and amazing. This piece is an amusing story about the Kewpies trying to convince people that ghosts really exist, but what’s really striking is the incredibly detailed notes to her colorist Miss Hess along the margins. She goes through frame by frame.

Mike Rhode: It looks like it would have been faster for her to do a color guide and color parts of it herself.

Martha Kennedy: Yes, you’re right. Why she did it this way is unknown.

Other famous characters are Grace Drayton’s Campbell Soup Kids. She’s best known for this creation, although she created successful strips, several of which featured cute kids who looked like the Campbell Kids. The Kids were created in 1904 and appeared in the Lady’s Home Journal.

Virginia Huget’s flapper strip, Molly the Manicure Girl is one of the few comics featuring a flapper who is also ostensibly a working girl. It’s very light-hearted. Her work is really rare. In the book that’s going to come out in March, there are bullet point biographies for all these cartoonists and illustrators and more. There are about 123.

Mike Rhode: Is it a catalog of the show in addition to a book about women cartoonists?

Martha Kennedy: It’s not a catalog of the show, but there are six chapters that correspond to the sections of the exhibit.



Mollie the Manicure Girl by Huget

Mike Rhode: Also in this section is a 1965 Brenda Starr by Dale Messick, with Brenda sobbing over the missing Basil St. John… it really was a romance comic by that point. 

Martha Kennedy: For me, this era ends on a triumphant note, with Dale Messick winning syndication for Brenda Starr in 1940 which is a big deal because it was one of the first adventure strips with a female heroine. Starr would go off in search of news stories as a reporter. It was less of a romance strip in the early days.

I also want to note three years prior to that, Jackie Ormes, one of the few  African-American cartoonists, published her first strip called Torchy Brown – From Dixie to Harlem in 1937 in the Pittsburgh Courier. Her strip featured a young heroine in an adventurous life as she moved north in search of a career. It ran initially only two years, but she revived the strip later on. We have no original work by her unfortunately, and this is a tearsheet on exhibit. We’ve tried to get some, but it is very rare. She did two other comic features, and engages with broader issues such as environment, race… and paper dolls. Paper dolls frequently appear in women’s strips including Trina Robbins, Grace Drayton…

The next group is New Narratives, New Voices which includes recent comics. We have an example of a beautiful silk-screened example of a mini-comic by Lille Carre collected from the Small Press Expo (SPX). 




Mike Rhode: SPX is probably bringing in a lot of works by women cartoonists given that the show is probably approaching parity with equal numbers of men and women exhibiting.
Martha Kennedy: SPX is incredible. And so many women are winning top prizes at SPX and San Diego Comic-Con and other venues where awards are given. Peers are recognizing peers for their work.

We have Trina Robbins represented by an example of a cover for Wimmen’s Comix. She’s such an important figure in the whole history of comics and the chronicling of comics’ history. She did both writing and art in underground and mainstream comic books, and then became a ‘herstorian.”

Since the 1940s, one of the distinctions between the comics in this section and the earlier ones, is that the creators have turned to their own lives and are drawing on their own experiences and the experiences of people they know well.

Mike Rhode: On display here is original art by Allison Bechdel, Hilary Price, Lynn Johnston and Lynda Barry, in addition to the printed works we’ve already discussed. I’m wondering about the absence of Cathy Guisewite?



Martha Kennedy: She’s in the book. I wish we had more examples of her work. She’s certainly important in this era of women’s comics. 

I would like to point out the Lynda Barry piece as really interesting. It’s from one of the stories in 100 Demons, her breakout book from 2002. In this piece, she’s resurrecting and transforming her childhood memories of smell, when she noticed that every single house in her neighborhood had a different smell, including her own. She’s very funny as she describes the smells and ascribes significance to them.

Mike Rhode: Under the strip is a collage…

 Martha Kennedy: All her title pages in the book are double-page spreads and they’re amazing multi-media works with ink, water color, photographs, dried flowers… She refers to her approach as autobiofictionalography.

Mike Rhode: I don’t think that term is going to catch on with anyone else. She’s a great creator though.

Next to this section is a video screen with other examples?

Martha Kennedy: Yes, we’re seeing some later Little Lulu strips by Ward Kimball. Marge was very entrepreneurial. And there are other examples of Brenda Starr and art by Marie Severin. It has some art from every section of pieces I wished we could include, but weren’t able to.
Whitney Sherman

The next section is Editorial Illustrators as exemplified by Anita Kunz. Especially interesting is this pairing of Sue Coe and Frances Jetter. They’re both commenting on the 1991 Persian Gulf War, and have created very strong statements. Jetter’s may look like fine art, but it was published in Time Magazine and that’s the way she works. She chooses to work in linocut. She does more fine art now, and works mostly in sculpture, but she went through a period when she published a lot of illustrations. This very strong statement about the enemy war dead was published in Time, whereas Coe’s piece was commissioned by The Progressive, a strongly pacifist magazine, and is a universal indictment of war. It’s a powerful, haunting piece showing her drawing technique and the influence of German Expressionist Kathe Kollwitz. Whitney Sherman’s piece is an editorial illustration for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s annual report about the easy availability of drugs at schools and really hits hard on this. She’s in charge of the graduate illustration program at MICA. 

Bernarda Bryson Shahn is perhaps the godmother of editorial illustration, and her piece is from 1935. She drove her famous husband around the South and the Midwest as part of the WPA project, but was taking her own notes, looking at his photographs, thinking about the state of the country, and coming up with her own idea for a series. She called it The Vanishing American Frontier, and got some funding to work on it, but never finished it, because like other women, life interfered. She was supportive of his career, and had three children. It wasn’t until the 1990s that the work was published and exhibited, and we know from that catalog that she intended the series to be published as a book. It wasn’t intended as fine art, but meant for broader distribution in the tradition of editorial illustration. There will be another example of her work in the next rotation.


Bernarda Shahn


Mike Rhode: To me, this piece looks like she’s quoting Grant Wood’s American Gothic…

Martha Kennedy: She claimed she didn’t know about his painting at the time.



Anita Kunz

Mike Rhode The next section is Magazine Covers andCartoons. I see a Roz Chast cartoon, and another Anita Kunz – you snuck two in…
Helen Hokinson
Martha Kennedy: I did! She’s just so colorful and compelling. This was for Ms. Magazine showing how a cover highlights a feature in the magazine, in this case a Satanic cult victimizing children. This horizontal piece of art was used as a wraparound cover.

Helen Hokinson is next. She’s a magazine cartoonist for the New Yorker who died in the 1949.

Mike Rhode: I think she’s their most famous woman cartoonist until Roz Chast arrived in the 1970s.

Martha Kennedy: They used other women cartoonists such as Barbara Shermund. Roberta MacDonald did 100 cartoons and then they accepted less and less. In her book, Liza Donnelly traces the history of women cartoonists in the magazine.

 Two magazine cover designs we exhibit show the change in gender relations. The 1920s Vanity Fair by Ann Harriet Fish shows dancers moving with great freedom, and she designed over thirty covers for them. She published in other magazines such as Cosmopolitan. 

Mike Rhode: I think part of the reason some of these people have ‘disappeared’ is that their magazines failed, whereas the New Yorker has continued publishing, and publishing cartoon collections, and raiding their back stock, while other publications are gone.

Martha Kennedy: The Golden Age of magazines is over.

Mike Rhode: The next section is Political Cartoons, and you’ve chosen some of the usual suspects such as Signe Wilkinson (one of the two Pulitzer Prize winners) and alternative cartoonist and Herblock prize-winner Jen Sorenson. Lisa Benson is less familiar, working in a smaller market.




Martha Kennedy: Benson started in a California paper and is one of the few conservative editorial cartoonists. She’s part of the Washington Post Writers Group’s Cartoonist Group, and you see her in the Post’s Saturday roundup once in a while, signing drawings as “Lisa.”
 
Ann Mergen was the editorial cartoonist for the Miami Daily News from 1933-1956. She turned from fashion illustration to editorial cartooning, and basically worked herself into a job. That paper did not have an editorial cartoonist. She should be better known. For over 20 years, she was their editorial cartoonist, and we have over 600 of her cartoons. The paper won a Pulitzer when she was on staff and her editor sent her a telegram saying, “Don’t let anyone tell you it wasn’t Mergen cartoons that won us the Pulitzer. “ She did cartoons about the environment and the Everglades; Southern Florida Historical Society has that work. Ohio State’s Billy Ireland Library did a solo show on her work, and I’d like to do more on her work. Some editorial cartoonists’ most powerful work is almost timeless, because some of the issues they address are ongoing.
Mike Rhode: Why aren’t there more print publications in the exhibit beyond the two or three? You could have included more cartoonists if you had used books or comics from other divisions.

Martha Kennedy: Space was limited. We did use some supporting material, and more is in the book. I would have liked to show more of how multi-faceted some of these women were, doing different kinds of illustrations, cartoons and book illustration and some doing book design as well. My book is intended to spotlight the great diversity and the range of inventiveness and innovation that these artists were capable of. So many of these women had to earn a living; they had talent and they wanted to use it and they moved in directions that offered them outlets.
Hilary Price


Mike Rhode: Who would you like to have included in the exhibition but couldn’t?

Martha Kennedy: Several who come to mind are cartoonists Martha Orr and Alice Harvey and illustrators Violet Oakley and Florence Scovel Shinn.

I have a whole section on caricatures in the book that I wasn’t able to include in the exhibit due to lack of space. Some are on the video screen in the exhibit. And we don’t have a lot of work by women animators. The book will be a co-publication between the Library of Congress and the University Press of Mississippi. There will about 230 illustrations and it comes out in March. We are planning some public programs too.

There are probably less than ten books on women cartoonists, so I’m hoping this exhibit will spur further research and more acquisitions, and generally more recognition of what women have contributed.

Jen Sorenson


Mike Rhode: Regarding future acquisitions – you only have limited money to buy items, but people can give you gifts and you’d be happy to talk to people about that right?

Martha Kennedy: Yes, definitely. Some types of illustration and comics that my colleagues and I would like to acquire for the Library include excellent examples of original comic book, graphic narrative, and children’s book illustration art. Acquiring excellent examples of original drawings by Kate Carew, other female cartoonists and illustrators commenting on the woman suffrage movement, Fay King, and editorial cartoons by Edwina Dumm would also be of strong interest.

Drawn to Purpose
November 18, 2017–October 20, 2018, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Graphic Arts Galleries, Ground Floor, Thomas Jefferson Building
Washington, DC 
https://www.loc.gov/exhibitions/drawn-to-purpose/about-this-exhibition/