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Cover Boy

Cartoonist Barry Blitt inks up a storm



Barry Blitt

Every artist has a defining moment. For cartoonist Barry Blitt, his controversial 2008 New Yorker cover “The Politics of Fear” depicting Barack and Michelle Obama as terrorists may be it. The extra­ordinary illustration resulted in a deluge of public outcry, from which Blitt emerged firmly solidified in the annals of political satire.

I caught up with him just as the wind whipped up a rainstorm outside his Washington studio. Inside, cocooned from the downpour, Blitt is playing piano so intensely, my knock at the door goes temporarily unnoticed.

It seems fitting. Blitt works isolated from the tailspin of politics. For the Obama cartoon, he summoned a wellspring of fears, and with
fly-swatter swiftness, nailed it in a single graphic that combined humor, brilliance, and art. Sometimes, as with that cover, he cuts unsparingly to the bone. “I have no boundaries, I do anything at anyone’s expense,” Blitt says jokingly, or perhaps not. It’s hard to know precisely whether he’s being cynical or sincere.

Blitt himself is visibly ill at ease under the spotlight. He shoots me a deer-caught-in-the-headlights look from under his hat. “Is this almost over?” he asks before we’ve even begun.

And so we bounce between sincerity and sarcasm—mostly the latter. I ask him about being Canadian. “I do have a green card, if you need to see it. I mean if that’s what you’re here for. I can produce all the necessary paperwork,” he replies.

Growing up in Montreal, Blitt was known as the student who drew in class. “I was a sweet kid. I drew cartoons and creatures, mostly of baseball players, Popeye, teachers, friends. I didn’t draw anything vulgar like the Obama stuff,” he says.

It wasn’t until after graduating from the Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto that Blitt first started drawing political cartoons for Toronto Magazine. Soon, he was contributing to American magazines such as Rolling Stone. When Sports Illustrated hired his wife, Teresa, as a designer, the couple relocated to New York City, where Blitt enjoyed a ten-year stint drawing half-page celebrity cartoons for Entertainment Weekly.

Flash forward ten years and suddenly politics had become pop culture, says Blitt. “It wasn’t that way when I was growing up, but maybe with the advent of the Internet, it just seemed like a lot of other people were finding politics as crass as I did,” he says.
These days, from the former dairy farm he shares with his wife, Teresa Fernandes, and their 14-year-old son, Sam, Blitt keeps up with current affairs online. The challenge for cartoonists today is that “satire is everywhere; you come up with ideas and someone’s done them. ‘The Daily Show’ and ‘The Colbert Report,’ these guys are doing it every day,” he says.

Perhaps, for that reason, his work tends to be more provocative. “Like the cartoon of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama together in bed,” he says. “It was during the campaign when Clinton asked who’d you want to answer the red phone,” and the two are looking nervously at each other as the red phone on the bedside table rings. Of course, after this past November’s election, Blitt revisited “The Politics of Fear” cover with another New Yorker cover, this one of Obama and a fist-pumping John Boehner, the likely Speaker of the House.

There is, I discover, another side to Blitt. He illustrates children’s picture books. He recently completed The Adventures of Mark Twain by Huckleberry Finn (Simon & Schuster), a biography by Robert Burleigh due out in March. He also illustrates Frank Rich’s op-ed column in the New York Times.

Every Wednesday afternoon, Rich emails Blitt a one-paragraph description of where his column is going. “Out of that, he spins a biting, original, often hilarious and, when the subject warrants, a moving or chilling illustration every week,” Rich explained. “It’s a long-distance collaboration—me in New York City, Barry in Connecticut—but one of the most satisfying I’ve had in my career.”

Do you draw the best Obama ears? I ask Blitt. “Oh, I don’t know,” he demurs. “Obama’s so easy to draw. The brow, the shape of his head, but the ears help. I think maybe we elect people who are easy to draw. Bush was, so was Clinton.”

This he says as he doodles what appears to be a caricature of me looking frighteningly like President Nixon. I remark on the similarity. He retorts, “Not really … well I guess you do have the same Neanderthal influences.”

I try not to take it personally. If the Obamas can take a joke, so can I. The President chose one of Blitt’s New Yorker covers to hang in the White House. “The one when he was picking the family dog at the same time he was vetting candidates for his national security cabinet,” Blitt says. The White House also requested a signed copy of a New Yorker cartoon of Obama walking on water. On it, Blitt wrote: “Stay dry.”

During our conversation, Blitt fields emails from editors and dodges impending deadlines with apparent nonchalance. “I spend a lot of days doing nothing. Some days I’m just fever-pitched and crazy working, and other days I just lie around doing nothing.”

Today appears to be one of the latter. “Now that I’m a professional illustrator, drawing’s no fun anymore,” he says. “I enjoy playing the piano and animal husbandry. Just kidding. I don’t even know what that is.
“Anyway, are we done yet?”

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December 2016

Nutmeg Technologies in partnership with local businesses will be collecting canned goods and dry goods throughout the months of November and December with all items to benefit South Windsor Food...

Cost: free

Where:
Nutmeg Technologies
279 Nutmeg Road South
South Windsor, CT  06074
View map »


Sponsor: Nutmeg Technologies
Telephone: 860-257-5643
Contact Name: Faith Zeller
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Prime Finds “Home for the Holidays,” last year’s enormously popular pop-up shop benefiting Prime Time House, will open once again in Bantam. The store, featuring donated items for...

Cost: Free after Grand Opening, which is $20.

Where:
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Next door to Sportsmen's
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Sponsor: Prime Time House, Inc.
Telephone: (860) 307-1734.
Contact Name: Kathi Weinstein
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Sponsor: The Smithy Store
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Cost: Admission Free

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Sponsor: Fine Line Art Gallery
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Sponsor: Oliver Wolcott Library
Telephone: 860-567-8030
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Website »

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Show More...
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Nutmeg Technologies in partnership with local businesses will be collecting canned goods and dry goods throughout the months of November and December with all items to benefit South Windsor Food...

Cost: free

Where:
Nutmeg Technologies
279 Nutmeg Road South
South Windsor, CT  06074
View map »


Sponsor: Nutmeg Technologies
Telephone: 860-257-5643
Contact Name: Faith Zeller
Website »

More information

Prime Finds “Home for the Holidays,” last year’s enormously popular pop-up shop benefiting Prime Time House, will open once again in Bantam. The store, featuring donated items for...

Cost: Free after Grand Opening, which is $20.

Where:
725 Bantam Road (Rte 202)
Next door to Sportsmen's
Bantam, CT
View map »


Sponsor: Prime Time House, Inc.
Telephone: (860) 307-1734.
Contact Name: Kathi Weinstein
Website »

More information

The Loft Gallery at The Smithy Store will host an opening reception for Connecticut artists, Ecka Blaire Faulds and Peter Wnek, on Saturday, November 19 from 4-6 pm. The reception is free and...

Cost: free

Where:
Loft Gallery
10 Main Street
Washington
New Preston, CT  06777
View map »


Sponsor: The Smithy Store
Telephone: 860-868-9003
Contact Name: Susan Newbury
Website »

More information

Elizabeth Wolff’s family is steeped in the arts. Her father, Guy, is a world-class potter; her mother, Erica, is a “Jack of all trades” - from knitter to viol musician; her...

Cost: Free

Where:
Oliver Wolcott Library
160 South St.
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Sponsor: Oliver Wolcott Library
Telephone: 860-567-8030
Contact Name: Tricia Messenger
Website »

More information

Enjoy online learning and engaging discussion at the Oliver Wolcott Library with the Monday Scholars! Monday Scholars combines the best of online learning with face-to-face classroom discussion!...

Cost: Free

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Oliver Wolcott Library
160 South St.
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Sponsor: Oliver Wolcott Library
Telephone: 860-567-8030
Contact Name: Tricia Messenger
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Nutmeg Technologies in partnership with local businesses will be collecting canned goods and dry goods throughout the months of November and December with all items to benefit South Windsor Food...

Cost: free

Where:
Nutmeg Technologies
279 Nutmeg Road South
South Windsor, CT  06074
View map »


Sponsor: Nutmeg Technologies
Telephone: 860-257-5643
Contact Name: Faith Zeller
Website »

More information

Prime Finds “Home for the Holidays,” last year’s enormously popular pop-up shop benefiting Prime Time House, will open once again in Bantam. The store, featuring donated items for...

Cost: Free after Grand Opening, which is $20.

Where:
725 Bantam Road (Rte 202)
Next door to Sportsmen's
Bantam, CT
View map »


Sponsor: Prime Time House, Inc.
Telephone: (860) 307-1734.
Contact Name: Kathi Weinstein
Website »

More information

The Loft Gallery at The Smithy Store will host an opening reception for Connecticut artists, Ecka Blaire Faulds and Peter Wnek, on Saturday, November 19 from 4-6 pm. The reception is free and...

Cost: free

Where:
Loft Gallery
10 Main Street
Washington
New Preston, CT  06777
View map »


Sponsor: The Smithy Store
Telephone: 860-868-9003
Contact Name: Susan Newbury
Website »

More information

Elizabeth Wolff’s family is steeped in the arts. Her father, Guy, is a world-class potter; her mother, Erica, is a “Jack of all trades” - from knitter to viol musician; her...

Cost: Free

Where:
Oliver Wolcott Library
160 South St.
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Sponsor: Oliver Wolcott Library
Telephone: 860-567-8030
Contact Name: Tricia Messenger
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Nutmeg Technologies in partnership with local businesses will be collecting canned goods and dry goods throughout the months of November and December with all items to benefit South Windsor Food...

Cost: free

Where:
Nutmeg Technologies
279 Nutmeg Road South
South Windsor, CT  06074
View map »


Sponsor: Nutmeg Technologies
Telephone: 860-257-5643
Contact Name: Faith Zeller
Website »

More information

Prime Finds “Home for the Holidays,” last year’s enormously popular pop-up shop benefiting Prime Time House, will open once again in Bantam. The store, featuring donated items for...

Cost: Free after Grand Opening, which is $20.

Where:
725 Bantam Road (Rte 202)
Next door to Sportsmen's
Bantam, CT
View map »


Sponsor: Prime Time House, Inc.
Telephone: (860) 307-1734.
Contact Name: Kathi Weinstein
Website »

More information

The Loft Gallery at The Smithy Store will host an opening reception for Connecticut artists, Ecka Blaire Faulds and Peter Wnek, on Saturday, November 19 from 4-6 pm. The reception is free and...

Cost: free

Where:
Loft Gallery
10 Main Street
Washington
New Preston, CT  06777
View map »


Sponsor: The Smithy Store
Telephone: 860-868-9003
Contact Name: Susan Newbury
Website »

More information

Elizabeth Wolff’s family is steeped in the arts. Her father, Guy, is a world-class potter; her mother, Erica, is a “Jack of all trades” - from knitter to viol musician; her...

Cost: Free

Where:
Oliver Wolcott Library
160 South St.
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Sponsor: Oliver Wolcott Library
Telephone: 860-567-8030
Contact Name: Tricia Messenger
Website »

More information

Tom Brokaw wrote that The American St. Nick is, “One more memorable and inspiring story from the greatest generation...It will touch your heart and make you proud.”   The American St. Nick...

Cost: Free

Where:
Oliver Wolcott Library
160 South St.
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Sponsor: Oliver Wolcott Library
Telephone: 860-567-8030
Contact Name: Tricia Messenger
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Nutmeg Technologies in partnership with local businesses will be collecting canned goods and dry goods throughout the months of November and December with all items to benefit South Windsor Food...

Cost: free

Where:
Nutmeg Technologies
279 Nutmeg Road South
South Windsor, CT  06074
View map »


Sponsor: Nutmeg Technologies
Telephone: 860-257-5643
Contact Name: Faith Zeller
Website »

More information

Prime Finds “Home for the Holidays,” last year’s enormously popular pop-up shop benefiting Prime Time House, will open once again in Bantam. The store, featuring donated items for...

Cost: Free after Grand Opening, which is $20.

Where:
725 Bantam Road (Rte 202)
Next door to Sportsmen's
Bantam, CT
View map »


Sponsor: Prime Time House, Inc.
Telephone: (860) 307-1734.
Contact Name: Kathi Weinstein
Website »

More information

The Loft Gallery at The Smithy Store will host an opening reception for Connecticut artists, Ecka Blaire Faulds and Peter Wnek, on Saturday, November 19 from 4-6 pm. The reception is free and...

Cost: free

Where:
Loft Gallery
10 Main Street
Washington
New Preston, CT  06777
View map »


Sponsor: The Smithy Store
Telephone: 860-868-9003
Contact Name: Susan Newbury
Website »

More information

Fine Line Art Gallery is excited to host their annual holiday art and fine craft show, Miniature Masterpieces, featuring small works of art that include miniature paintings, photographs, jewelry,...

Cost: Admission Free

Where:
Fine Line Art Gallery
319 Main Street South
Woodbury, CT  06798
View map »


Sponsor: Fine Line Art Gallery
Telephone: 203-266-0110
Contact Name: Mally DeSomma
Website »

More information

Elizabeth Wolff’s family is steeped in the arts. Her father, Guy, is a world-class potter; her mother, Erica, is a “Jack of all trades” - from knitter to viol musician; her...

Cost: Free

Where:
Oliver Wolcott Library
160 South St.
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Sponsor: Oliver Wolcott Library
Telephone: 860-567-8030
Contact Name: Tricia Messenger
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Nutmeg Technologies in partnership with local businesses will be collecting canned goods and dry goods throughout the months of November and December with all items to benefit South Windsor Food...

Cost: free

Where:
Nutmeg Technologies
279 Nutmeg Road South
South Windsor, CT  06074
View map »


Sponsor: Nutmeg Technologies
Telephone: 860-257-5643
Contact Name: Faith Zeller
Website »

More information

Prime Finds “Home for the Holidays,” last year’s enormously popular pop-up shop benefiting Prime Time House, will open once again in Bantam. The store, featuring donated items for...

Cost: Free after Grand Opening, which is $20.

Where:
725 Bantam Road (Rte 202)
Next door to Sportsmen's
Bantam, CT
View map »


Sponsor: Prime Time House, Inc.
Telephone: (860) 307-1734.
Contact Name: Kathi Weinstein
Website »

More information

The Loft Gallery at The Smithy Store will host an opening reception for Connecticut artists, Ecka Blaire Faulds and Peter Wnek, on Saturday, November 19 from 4-6 pm. The reception is free and...

Cost: free

Where:
Loft Gallery
10 Main Street
Washington
New Preston, CT  06777
View map »


Sponsor: The Smithy Store
Telephone: 860-868-9003
Contact Name: Susan Newbury
Website »

More information

Fine Line Art Gallery is excited to host their annual holiday art and fine craft show, Miniature Masterpieces, featuring small works of art that include miniature paintings, photographs, jewelry,...

Cost: Admission Free

Where:
Fine Line Art Gallery
319 Main Street South
Woodbury, CT  06798
View map »


Sponsor: Fine Line Art Gallery
Telephone: 203-266-0110
Contact Name: Mally DeSomma
Website »

More information

Elizabeth Wolff’s family is steeped in the arts. Her father, Guy, is a world-class potter; her mother, Erica, is a “Jack of all trades” - from knitter to viol musician; her...

Cost: Free

Where:
Oliver Wolcott Library
160 South St.
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Sponsor: Oliver Wolcott Library
Telephone: 860-567-8030
Contact Name: Tricia Messenger
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Nutmeg Technologies in partnership with local businesses will be collecting canned goods and dry goods throughout the months of November and December with all items to benefit South Windsor Food...

Cost: free

Where:
Nutmeg Technologies
279 Nutmeg Road South
South Windsor, CT  06074
View map »


Sponsor: Nutmeg Technologies
Telephone: 860-257-5643
Contact Name: Faith Zeller
Website »

More information

Prime Finds “Home for the Holidays,” last year’s enormously popular pop-up shop benefiting Prime Time House, will open once again in Bantam. The store, featuring donated items for...

Cost: Free after Grand Opening, which is $20.

Where:
725 Bantam Road (Rte 202)
Next door to Sportsmen's
Bantam, CT
View map »


Sponsor: Prime Time House, Inc.
Telephone: (860) 307-1734.
Contact Name: Kathi Weinstein
Website »

More information

The Smithy Store will host a Local Maker’s Market on the 2nd floor Loft Gallery of the store. This special holiday market will coincide with the New Preston Winter Stroll, where the...

Cost: free

Where:
The Smithy Store
10 Main Street
New Preston, CT  06759
View map »


Sponsor: The Smithy Store
Telephone: 860-868-9003
Contact Name: Susan Newbury
Website »

More information

Join Haight-Brown Vineyard for The World's Best Cheeses with a Wine, Cheese and Chocolate paring classes @ 3:00 pm. $35 per person. It's educational, fun and lots of yummy wine and food....

Cost: $35

Where:
Haight-Brown Vineyard
29 Chestnut Hill Rd
Litchfield, CT
View map »


Website »

More information

The Loft Gallery at The Smithy Store will host an opening reception for Connecticut artists, Ecka Blaire Faulds and Peter Wnek, on Saturday, November 19 from 4-6 pm. The reception is free and...

Cost: free

Where:
Loft Gallery
10 Main Street
Washington
New Preston, CT  06777
View map »


Sponsor: The Smithy Store
Telephone: 860-868-9003
Contact Name: Susan Newbury
Website »

More information

Fine Line Art Gallery is excited to host their annual holiday art and fine craft show, Miniature Masterpieces, featuring small works of art that include miniature paintings, photographs, jewelry,...

Cost: Admission Free

Where:
Fine Line Art Gallery
319 Main Street South
Woodbury, CT  06798
View map »


Sponsor: Fine Line Art Gallery
Telephone: 203-266-0110
Contact Name: Mally DeSomma
Website »

More information

Elizabeth Wolff’s family is steeped in the arts. Her father, Guy, is a world-class potter; her mother, Erica, is a “Jack of all trades” - from knitter to viol musician; her...

Cost: Free

Where:
Oliver Wolcott Library
160 South St.
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Sponsor: Oliver Wolcott Library
Telephone: 860-567-8030
Contact Name: Tricia Messenger
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

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