Liza Donnelly, known for her cartoon work in The New Yorker, is one of the few women in the world who has been able to make a living as a political caricaturist. On a recent visit to Israel as a cultural envoy of the U.S. State Department, Donnelly met with local cartoonists and members of the public to discuss the impact of her work and that of other female cartoonists.
"All cartoonists are linked together in the world -- it's our language, one we can communicate in," Donnelly told an audience at the American Center in Jerusalem, a wing of the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv on Sunday, Aug. 12.
Donnelly began to draw cartoons as a child, living in Washington, D.C. "I was shy and didn't like using words growing up. Drawing was a way of expressing myself and making people around me laugh," she said.
"It was actually an Israeli cartoonist, Nurit Karlin, who made me think that I could draw for The New Yorker. I saw her work published in the magazine in the early 1970s -- she was the only woman working as a cartoonist at The New Yorker at the time," Donnelly explained.
In the past 30 years of her career, Donnelly's cartoons have been regularly published in The New Yorker and offer social commentary on a variety of topics from politics and society norms to love, family and marriage -- often times in a humorous light. She has spoken at TED Talks and The United Nations and her work has appeared in The New York Times, CNN.com, Harvard Business Review, Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, The Nation and many other national American publications.
In an exclusive interview, Donnelly described her visit to Israel as "different from what I expected."
"I love it here," she said smiling. "I love how Israelis love the news and how passionate and open they are to discussion. I feel very welcomed here as a non-Jew."
"Israelis give the impression that they are prickly on the outside and soft on the inside and I relate to that. I'm a realist but yet an idealist and I feel that among the people I meet here," said Donnelly.
Photo Credit: Anav Silverman, Tazpit News Agency / Description: Liza Donnelly speaking at the American Center in Jerusalem.
During Donnelly's talk, she explained how difficult it was for her draw after 9/11. "I had a lot of trouble drawing cartoons after 9/11," she said.
"One thing that I was surprised by was the ability of Israelis to move on. There's so much conflict here so I expected much more serious, reserved people, but there's always humor and laughter in conversations," she said.
During her visit, Donnelly also met with Israeli and Palestinian cartoonists. "The reality is much more complicated than I expected, especially in Jerusalem in regard to how everyone lives together," added Donnelly.
"I'm not a politician or a political expert, but I believe that there are many ways to look at peace," she said.
During her talk, Donnelly showed a number of different cartoons she had drawn over the years as well as cartoons by other women from around the world. "Social media is allowing women's art to reach more and more people, especially from countries like Iran and China."
Donnelly introduced the audience to a number of female cartoonists and their political work from a several countries including Turkey, Iran, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. "The Internet removes cultural and physical barriers and we need to read cartoons from around the world in order to understand what is going on," stated Donnelly.