By ZEYNAB DAY
President Benson’s big brother, Pulitzer Prize winning editorial cartoonist Steve Benson, visited Eastern on Wednesday, Oct. 16, where his cartoons and commentary generated laughs from the audience.
Benson gave his closing lecture at 5 p.m. in the Campbell Building. His art had been on display in the Landing Gallery from Sept. 30 to Oct. 17. President Benson introduced his brother and spoke about his brother’s drive and character.
“He sticks to his convictions and he sticks by his word and stands by his work,” President Benson said.
The focus on Steve Benson’s lecture centered on the role of editorial cartoonists as watchdogs for the public.
“It’s the job of the editorial cartoonist to be a check mate if you will, or at least a check on the ridiculousness, pomposity and insanity that we see in public government today,” Benson said. “Our job is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”
He explained how editorial cartoons can serve as commentary on controversial and important debates and how visual imagery can be as impactful as written word.
He gave several examples of responses he had received in the 30 years he worked for the Arizona Republic newspaper, sharing several email, letters and phone calls he received over the years.
His favorite came from a subscriber who phoned in to tell Benson that after seeing his editorial cartoon she wanted to “cancel her prescription.”
He mentioned another angry reader that sent and email saying “looking at your work it’s hard to believe you beat out 100 million sperm.”
Benson explained that passionate responses could serve as a cue that his work is making an impact.
“Editorial cartoonists are the Preparation-H on the hot-seat of the government,” Benson said. “Our job is to provoke and to catalyze.”
He went on to discuss how editorial cartoons have had a significant role in American history. He showed some of the work by Thomas Nast, one of America’s first editorial cartoonists who created such iconic imagery as the democratic elephant, the republican donkey and Uncle Sam.
Benson also showcased several of his personal works, which included several recent pieces and some pieces that did not make it to print.
He used examples with simple imagery to explain that it cartoon does not have to be busy to convey a message.
John Wade, dean of the college of Arts and Sciences, was invited up front for the closing portion of Benson’s lecture. Benson drew a caricature of Wade for the audience.
Wade said he was selected for the drawing prior to the lecture.
“Someone planted the seed,” Wade said.
Benson took a few questions from the audience and asked Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Joel Pett of the Lexington Harold Leader to answer some questions as well.
Michael Randolph, 54, lecturer for the communication and broadcasting and electronic medial departments at Eastern asked how the Internet has impacted editorial cartooning.
Benson explained how many editorial cartoonists are looking for alternative ways to continue their work.
Joel Pett said many people are unaware that reading online may not be a “greener” alternative due to the enormous amount of energy needed to maintain electronic towers and servers.
Benson also lectured a class in Eastern’s art and design department were he discussed basic elements of art as well as how to create polished editorial cartoon.