No Lines in Sand for Eli Valley

Forward Artist-in-Residence Pushes the Envelope, With Flair

Artist Provocateur Cartoonist Eli Valley likes to get his audience thinking.
nate lavey
Artist Provocateur Cartoonist Eli Valley likes to get his audience thinking.

By Haaretz

Published February 17, 2012.
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When New York satirist and cartoonist Eli Valley heard about the Israeli anti-Semitic cartoon contest six years ago, he sent in the following cartoon: a grotesque Jew with two penises simultaneously sodomizing a Muslim woman and a Christian woman who are crying out to Allah and Jesus to save them. With one hand the Jew is creating massive tsunami waves and with the other he is launching a plane at the Twin Towers. On his head is a skullcap, and his testicles emit an odor of garlic, borscht and the tears of virgins.

The Israeli contest was launched in the aftermath of the uproar in Denmark surrounding a cartoon depiction of the prophet Mohammed, and after an Iranian newspaper announced a cartoon competition on the Holocaust. In response, playwright and actor Eyal Zusman approached Israeli cartoonist Amitai Sandy with an idea for an Israeli anti-Semitic cartoon contest to freshen up the world’s store of anti-Semitic images and to prove to everyone that Jews do it best. And it worked. Dozens of Jews from all over the world sent in cartoons − and Valley was one of them. At the time he was a young writer and had never planned on reviving his career as a comic book artist, which he had set aside.

“I got interested in comics when I was a kid, but it never had a Jewish dimension to it,” he recalled during a recent visit to Israel. “I drew cartoons in college, more political stuff, but I stopped after graduating. I got tired of the format of the single-panel response to current events − cartoons that relied on and reacted to the news.”

And then you heard about the contest?

Valley: “Yes, and it was the first time I’d done any comics in 10 years. Not that I didn’t doodle here and there, but I didn’t do any real art; it was just for fun. I hadn’t used brush and ink in years. For the contest I drew on cheap paper and used a copy machine and Wite-Out to fix the mistakes. It was very primitive − I had to do it fast, there was a tight deadline − but it was also visceral, and the result and the response made it worth it.”

And then you said: “Great, I’ve found a new career!”?

Valley: “It wasn’t quite like that. You don’t make a career out of drawing a Jew with two penises. At around that time a new website called Jewcy was looking for different voices, young and fresh takes on Jewish culture, and they liked what I had to say. Suddenly I had a readership. I started drawing more complicated comics. What I do today, even though it’s reactive and angry in a sense, allows me to work in a much more creative dynamic than I could with just the single panel, because I can tell a story. That’s what I love about comics: They allow a much broader form of expression than the single-panel political cartoon, despite the glorious past and tradition of political cartoons.”

For more, go to Haaretz.com


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