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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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October 2017

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Cost: Fee for Admission

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Telephone: 203-753-0381
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Join us for an inspiring and invigorating Girlfriends’ Getaway from October 15-17 at The Manor House Inn.  This exclusive event includes:   Welcome reception with wine and...

Cost: $260-$345pp

Where:
Manor House Inn
69 Maple Avenue
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Sponsor: Manor House Inn
Telephone: 860-542-5690
Contact Name: Kristen Perlman
Website »

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Art opening Fri October 6 from 6-8pm of new art work by Sebastian Tillinger an actor/artist of recent abstract paintings.  Tillinger has appeared in such Hollywood movies as "The Wolf of...

Cost: free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Rd
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Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 860-619-0422
Contact Name: Scott Bond
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Cost: Free and open to the public.

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Gunn Memorial Library
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The Loft Gallery welcomes a new exhibition of paintings and drawings by Peruvian artist, Marisabel Artieda. “Here and There” opens on Saturday, October 7th through Sunday, November...

Cost: free

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View map »


Sponsor: Loft Gallery
Telephone: 860-868-9003
Contact Name: Susan Newbury
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The arrival of the recent works of Jylian GUSTLIN is always a joyous affair. One can rely not only on a definitive maturation, as evidenced in her new and beautifully rendered works,  but by...

Cost: free

Where:
Canfin Gallery
39 Main Street
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Telephone: 914-332-4554
Contact Name: Jean-Claude Canfin
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Join us for an inspiring and invigorating Girlfriends’ Getaway from October 15-17 at The Manor House Inn.  This exclusive event includes:   Welcome reception with wine and...

Cost: $260-$345pp

Where:
Manor House Inn
69 Maple Avenue
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View map »


Sponsor: Manor House Inn
Telephone: 860-542-5690
Contact Name: Kristen Perlman
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More information

Art opening Fri October 6 from 6-8pm of new art work by Sebastian Tillinger an actor/artist of recent abstract paintings.  Tillinger has appeared in such Hollywood movies as "The Wolf of...

Cost: free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Rd
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Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 860-619-0422
Contact Name: Scott Bond
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Cost: Free

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Sponsor: Oliver Wolcott Library
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Cost: Free!

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Sponsor: Litchfield Historical Society
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Contact Name: Megan Olver
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Cost: Free

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Sponsor: Litchfield Historical Society
Telephone: 860-567-4501
Contact Name: Megan Olver
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Cost: free

Where:
Canfin Gallery
39 Main Street
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Sponsor: Canfin Gallery
Telephone: 914-332-4554
Contact Name: Jean-Claude Canfin
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Cost: Fee for Admission

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Sponsor: Mattatuck Museum
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Cost: Free

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WCSU Midtown Campus
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Art opening Fri October 6 from 6-8pm of new art work by Sebastian Tillinger an actor/artist of recent abstract paintings.  Tillinger has appeared in such Hollywood movies as "The Wolf of...

Cost: free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Rd
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Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 860-619-0422
Contact Name: Scott Bond
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WCSU Midtown Campus
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Cost: free

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Sponsor: Loft Gallery
Telephone: 860-868-9003
Contact Name: Susan Newbury
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Cost: Free!

Where:
Litchfield History Museum
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Sponsor: Litchfield Historical Society
Telephone: 860-567-4501
Contact Name: Megan Olver
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The Litchfield Historical Society is pleased to announce the opening of a new exhibit Thoughts, Words, and Deeds: Exploring the Litchfield Female Academy, on view April 22 through November 27, 2017...

Cost: Free

Where:
Litchfield History Museum
7 South Street
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View map »


Sponsor: Litchfield Historical Society
Telephone: 860-567-4501
Contact Name: Megan Olver
Website »

More information

The arrival of the recent works of Jylian GUSTLIN is always a joyous affair. One can rely not only on a definitive maturation, as evidenced in her new and beautifully rendered works,  but by...

Cost: free

Where:
Canfin Gallery
39 Main Street
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View map »


Sponsor: Canfin Gallery
Telephone: 914-332-4554
Contact Name: Jean-Claude Canfin
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More information

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Cost: Fee for Admission

Where:
Mattatuck Museum
144 West Main St
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Sponsor: Mattatuck Museum
Telephone: 203-753-0381
Contact Name: Mally DeSomma
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Art opening Fri October 6 from 6-8pm of new art work by Sebastian Tillinger an actor/artist of recent abstract paintings.  Tillinger has appeared in such Hollywood movies as "The Wolf of...

Cost: free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Rd
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Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 860-619-0422
Contact Name: Scott Bond
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Cost: Free

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Sponsor: Oliver Wolcott Library
Telephone: 860-567-8030
Contact Name: Jordan McCorison
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Cost: Free

Where:
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181 White Street
Danbury, CT  06810
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The Loft Gallery welcomes a new exhibition of paintings and drawings by Peruvian artist, Marisabel Artieda. “Here and There” opens on Saturday, October 7th through Sunday, November...

Cost: free

Where:
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10 Main Street
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Sponsor: Loft Gallery
Telephone: 860-868-9003
Contact Name: Susan Newbury
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Cost: Free!

Where:
Litchfield History Museum
7 South Street
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View map »


Sponsor: Litchfield Historical Society
Telephone: 860-567-4501
Contact Name: Megan Olver
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The Litchfield Historical Society is pleased to announce the opening of a new exhibit Thoughts, Words, and Deeds: Exploring the Litchfield Female Academy, on view April 22 through November 27, 2017...

Cost: Free

Where:
Litchfield History Museum
7 South Street
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Sponsor: Litchfield Historical Society
Telephone: 860-567-4501
Contact Name: Megan Olver
Website »

More information

The arrival of the recent works of Jylian GUSTLIN is always a joyous affair. One can rely not only on a definitive maturation, as evidenced in her new and beautifully rendered works,  but by...

Cost: free

Where:
Canfin Gallery
39 Main Street
Tarrytown, NY  10591
View map »


Sponsor: Canfin Gallery
Telephone: 914-332-4554
Contact Name: Jean-Claude Canfin
Website »

More information

 The Mattatuck Museum presents “The Valley Girls” with an exhibit running from September 10 – November 12, 2017.  A special reception will be held on Sunday, September...

Cost: Fee for Admission

Where:
Mattatuck Museum
144 West Main St
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View map »


Sponsor: Mattatuck Museum
Telephone: 203-753-0381
Contact Name: Mally DeSomma
Website »

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Cost: $7.00 per person

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Litchfield Community Center
421 Bantam Road
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Website »

More information

Art opening Fri October 6 from 6-8pm of new art work by Sebastian Tillinger an actor/artist of recent abstract paintings.  Tillinger has appeared in such Hollywood movies as "The Wolf of...

Cost: free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Rd
Washington Depot, CT  06794
View map »


Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 860-619-0422
Contact Name: Scott Bond
Website »

More information

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Cost: $20

Where:
WCSU Westside Campus
43 Lake Ave. Extension
Danbury, CT  06810
View map »


Website »

More information

The Loft Gallery welcomes a new exhibition of paintings and drawings by Peruvian artist, Marisabel Artieda. “Here and There” opens on Saturday, October 7th through Sunday, November...

Cost: free

Where:
Loft Gallery at The Smithy Store
10 Main Street
New Preston, CT  06777
View map »


Sponsor: Loft Gallery
Telephone: 860-868-9003
Contact Name: Susan Newbury
Website »

More information

Sports and recreation are universal experiences. Whether we make it to the big leagues or never leave our backyards, these activities play important roles in our lives. They help us form...

Cost: Free!

Where:
Litchfield History Museum
7 South Street
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Sponsor: Litchfield Historical Society
Telephone: 860-567-4501
Contact Name: Megan Olver
Website »

More information

The Litchfield Historical Society is pleased to announce the opening of a new exhibit Thoughts, Words, and Deeds: Exploring the Litchfield Female Academy, on view April 22 through November 27, 2017...

Cost: Free

Where:
Litchfield History Museum
7 South Street
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Sponsor: Litchfield Historical Society
Telephone: 860-567-4501
Contact Name: Megan Olver
Website »

More information

The arrival of the recent works of Jylian GUSTLIN is always a joyous affair. One can rely not only on a definitive maturation, as evidenced in her new and beautifully rendered works,  but by...

Cost: free

Where:
Canfin Gallery
39 Main Street
Tarrytown, NY  10591
View map »


Sponsor: Canfin Gallery
Telephone: 914-332-4554
Contact Name: Jean-Claude Canfin
Website »

More information

 The Mattatuck Museum presents “The Valley Girls” with an exhibit running from September 10 – November 12, 2017.  A special reception will be held on Sunday, September...

Cost: Fee for Admission

Where:
Mattatuck Museum
144 West Main St
Waterbury, CT
View map »


Sponsor: Mattatuck Museum
Telephone: 203-753-0381
Contact Name: Mally DeSomma
Website »

More information

Show More...
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Art opening Fri October 6 from 6-8pm of new art work by Sebastian Tillinger an actor/artist of recent abstract paintings.  Tillinger has appeared in such Hollywood movies as "The Wolf of...

Cost: free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Rd
Washington Depot, CT  06794
View map »


Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 860-619-0422
Contact Name: Scott Bond
Website »

More information

The Department of Theatre Arts will present "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead" in the Studio Theatre of the Visual and Performing Arts Center on the WCSU Westside campus, 43 Lake...

Cost: $20

Where:
WCSU Westside Campus
43 Lake Ave. Extension
Danbury, CT  06810
View map »


Website »

More information

The Loft Gallery welcomes a new exhibition of paintings and drawings by Peruvian artist, Marisabel Artieda. “Here and There” opens on Saturday, October 7th through Sunday, November...

Cost: free

Where:
Loft Gallery at The Smithy Store
10 Main Street
New Preston, CT  06777
View map »


Sponsor: Loft Gallery
Telephone: 860-868-9003
Contact Name: Susan Newbury
Website »

More information

Sports and recreation are universal experiences. Whether we make it to the big leagues or never leave our backyards, these activities play important roles in our lives. They help us form...

Cost: Free!

Where:
Litchfield History Museum
7 South Street
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Sponsor: Litchfield Historical Society
Telephone: 860-567-4501
Contact Name: Megan Olver
Website »

More information

The Litchfield Historical Society is pleased to announce the opening of a new exhibit Thoughts, Words, and Deeds: Exploring the Litchfield Female Academy, on view April 22 through November 27, 2017...

Cost: Free

Where:
Litchfield History Museum
7 South Street
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Sponsor: Litchfield Historical Society
Telephone: 860-567-4501
Contact Name: Megan Olver
Website »

More information

The arrival of the recent works of Jylian GUSTLIN is always a joyous affair. One can rely not only on a definitive maturation, as evidenced in her new and beautifully rendered works,  but by...

Cost: free

Where:
Canfin Gallery
39 Main Street
Tarrytown, NY  10591
View map »


Sponsor: Canfin Gallery
Telephone: 914-332-4554
Contact Name: Jean-Claude Canfin
Website »

More information

 The Mattatuck Museum presents “The Valley Girls” with an exhibit running from September 10 – November 12, 2017.  A special reception will be held on Sunday, September...

Cost: Fee for Admission

Where:
Mattatuck Museum
144 West Main St
Waterbury, CT
View map »


Sponsor: Mattatuck Museum
Telephone: 203-753-0381
Contact Name: Mally DeSomma
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

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