As an intern at the Michener Art Museum for the summer, it has been a huge learning experience for me to work here and prepare for the newly installed Tony Auth exhibit, To Stir Inform and Inflame: The Art of Tony Auth. My job pertains to education and new media, which has allowed me to research a lot of Tony Auth’s work and consider how best to present it to young visitors. Auth’s work presents an interesting challenge for young viewers in that it discusses very significant and controversial topics in a medium which is most relevant to a very young audience. The innocence of the cartoon is something I think our society has assumed based on the prevalence of children’s shows and the Sunday paper, but historically the cartoon has been used as political propaganda, and understudies for major works of art. Tony Auth’s work effectively utilizes the cartoon as a tool for reconsidering current events and the general political atmosphere of our country, while using the simplified drawing techniques to satirize his figures. In looking at his work, what characters has he created that you especially appreciate? What makes them humorous or telling?
One example of Tony Auth’s artistic success is seen in his image Grim Reminder from October 2nd, 2009. Here Auth addresses a serious and relevant issue in such a way that the audience can first understand his visual metaphor, and then the implications of such imagery. The grim reaper, a common symbol for death, sits behind the wheel of a speeding convertible while he texts with his bony digits. Bringing the eye of the viewer completely around the space of the image is the scythe which looms above his head.
I was especially struck by this image as I am in my early twenties and live within a culture of technological communication and instant gratification. I’ve heard terrible stories of texting-related accidents and injuries, but I’ve also seen people texting while on my own street, in the center of town, and even on the highway! Tony Auth is most known for his political cartoons, but his actual job was an editorial cartoonist. That means he could comment on anything relevant to the reading public. I’ve found that Auth addresses the citizens of this country in a clear and memorable way not to force their views to match his own, but to inspire thought and serious consideration of the major issues occurring in own backyard and around the world.
How do you react to this image? Do you think Tony Auth is successful in getting his message across?
-Melissa Miguelez, Intern