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Cartoonist explores social justice through artwork

By Olivia DeGirolamo

The works showcase elements of journalism (Diana Solano/Distribution Manager).

Students and faculty uncovered the power of cartoons as they delved into the connection between humor and human rights with well-known creator Liza Donnelly.

Donnelly, a cartoonist and writer for The New Yorker Magazine and CBS, visited the Education Building Room 115 on Oct. 24 to discuss the importance of cartoons in society, and described her own use of humor to portray political and cultural themes in cartoons through her career and beyond.

“Cartoons not only attack political figures and corrupt figures and keep our leaders accountable, they also deal with cultural issues,” Donnelly said in explaining the relevance of cartoons in the media. 

While she wanted to be a political cartoonist from the beginning, Donnelly feared that she didn’t hold political opinions strong enough. 

Those hesitations changed when she discovered The New Yorker, saying that with the magazine, “You can get a message across in a different way. You don’t have to hit someone over the head. You don’t have to be mean.”

Donnelly draws to understand what is going on in the world, using her passion for cartooning and social justice issues to extend past her career. She is involved with the organization Cartooning for Peace, which educates students and prisoners about political and global issues through the lens of cartoons. 

According to Donnelly, Cartooning for Peace also “helps bring awareness” to cartoonists who are imprisoned and targeted for their political artwork. 

“Cartoons are not so simple,” she said. “They can cause a lot of problems.” 

Donnelly noted that bringing awareness to this matter is important so that cartoonists in the future will have a safer environment to express their work.

Donnelly, who works closely with cartoonists around the world, showed a selection of cartoons from artists who are involved in Cartooning for Peace. 

She said she is often inspired by European cartoonists, who tend to create wordless cartoons, a task that is  difficult to accomplish. 

“They want their work to travel across borders,” Donnelly said.

Throughout the presentation, she also showed the audience a variety of her own cartoons that reflected themes of feminism and women’s rights, gun violence and other political situations.

Students found her work to be captivating. 

“I was really impressed with her work,” said Bridget Walsh, a sophomore international studies major. “I didn’t realize how far she was at the forefront of feminism and cartoons for feminism.” 

However, Donnelly’s work isn’t solely rooted in creating political cartoons. She also makes cultural commentary a main theme in her work, stating that she enjoys making those kinds of cartoons more, since she doesn’t consider herself a major historian. 

Sophomore communication studies major Mia Bosyk said she appreciated how Donnelly’s work covers more than just politics.

“She does it all,” Bosyk said. “She does the lighthearted things too, and is successful in every single area.”

As Donnelly moves forward in her career, she said she plans to keep drawing and that cartoons hold a deep value to her. 

“Cartoons can also reflect our emotions in the country,” she said. “I think they are an important part of journalistic tradition.” 


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