Matt Davies is an unabashed, in-your-face, idealistic liberal.
He also loves Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann, Donald Trump and Rick Perry.
No, he’s not as two-faced as many politicians.
The 1985 Staples graduate is a Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist. And while his politics lean left, his pen pulls him toward people who are easy to caricature.
Their own words help. And if they’ve got some distinguishing feature — a cartoonish head of hair, say — well, that’s just frosting on the cake.
An exhibit of Matt’s cartoons about the current political campaign — syndicated nationally by Tribune Media Services — is on display now through (fittingly) Election Day in the Westport Library‘s Riverwalk showcase (lower level).
Three other cartoonists — “my conservative friends, and they are friends,” Matt emphasizes — are featured. But the Staples grad is the star of the show.
Some voters think the Obama-Romney race has failed to stir much passion. Matt agrees — but not because of either man’s politics.
“They’re both good-looking men,” he says. “That’s the kiss of death for a cartoonist. You want grotesque features.”
Over the past 4 years, Matt’s depiction of the president has evolved into an elongated, long-legged, upright figure.
Romney is a work in progress. The Republican nominee’s teeth, hair and white streaks of hair stand out. In one cartoon, Matt replaced those streaks with words he’s been ambiguous about: personal finances, healthcare, immigration, etc. Matt titled it “Romney’s Gray Areas.”
Matt was sorry to see the other Republican candidates go.
He calls Gingrich “a gift from above.” All, he says, were “good candidates. Maybe not for running the country, but certainly for cartoonists.”
He does not shy away from his own political convictions. The job of an editorial cartoonist, he says, is to “have an opinion, and deliver it as cleverly, wittily and with as much fun as possible.” If he succeeds, he hopes that even people who disagree with him can appreciate the irony or humor.
“My intention is not to offend,” he says. “It’s to use public figures’ words to strangle themselves.”
Nothing — and no one — is sacred. “I’ll go after anyone I disagree with,” Matt says. “Or anyone who does something stupid.”
Editorial cartooning is changing, he notes. As newspapers wither — and cast cartoonists of all political stripes aside in cost-cutting moves — they’ve had to adapt. The internet and social media have been great — millions of people can see a cartoon in a matter of hours — but being online does not make up for decent salaries and benefits.
While political cartoons themselves have “never been better or more creative,” Matt says, “we’re all scratching our heads, figuring out where all this will go.”
Through November, at least, anyone who loves political cartoons — and can take a joke — should go to the Westport Library Riverwalk display case.
(Matt Davies’ cartoons have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times,USA Today, Newsweek, Time, CNN and Mad Magazine. He won a Pulitzer Prize in 2004 — and was a finalist in 2011 — and in 2001 received the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award. He studied at the Savannah College of Art and Design, and the School of Visual Arts in New York.)