Friday, October 21, 2011

A few parting shots before I move on...

I must say that it as been quite a week for me. The recent events of the past week have certainly taken up a lot of my time and energy. A lot of space has been alloyed in this blog to cover this, and I thank you loyal readers for being patient and putting up with all the political noise.

For me, at the end of the day, it comes down to a man who didn't like hs picture being drawn and wanted to complain about it. This happens frequently enough to any caricature artist as to be something not even worthy of discussion, the reason that I've focused on it for this length of time is to defend my reputation as an artist Asa person and as an African American.

Defending myself as an African American....I would much rather NOT even have to "go there" the funny thing about being an African American in this country is sometimes have to "prove" to OTHER African Americans how "Black " you are.

It's not discussed in public, meaning amongst other races, but this is one of the stupid little dialogues that re surface in the Black community as we "talk amongst ourselves"


The question comes up when you decide that you like to crack open books instead if sell crack
The question comes up when bring your white boyfriend home to meet the parents
And, thanks to the Congressman it comes up when you draw cartoons.

Anyone who doesn't lock step and agree with "conventional" Black opinion gets a label and not a favorable one.

Now that it's common knowledge " that I am Black, I 'can't be a racist" but I can be something worst.

A race hating, Uncle Tom.

Labels. I guess some people need them in order to tie up their universe nice and neat. If you abel something "bad" like "racism" then you can become a hero and "fight it" I'm sure Congressman Meeks feels as though he was "fighting racism" by pointing out my cartoon. I suppose every politician likes to envision himself as the champion of something. I imagine that American elected officials feel, on some level, a moral obligation to defend a standard set by our Civil Rights forefathers, like Martin Luther King and others who spoke out against racial injustice.


To engage in this fight is honorable and noble. I fault no African American elected official for doing that. But when you dis ingenuously put on the civil rights champion costume, and conjure up an imaginary enemy to fight, you're little more than a poser and pretender.

Funny how Halloween is just around the corner. It seems the Congressman couldnt wait to put on his costume.

Speaking of which, I've got some great Haloween toons coming up folks, so stay tuned!


The following letter is taken from this weeks lettes to the Editor, section of THE WAVE by my collegue, fellow editorial artist, Tom Kerr. I'm no slouch with words, but Tom here makes me sound like I'm stuttering and stammering by comparison. All I've got to say to Tom is, "Thnk you, I couldn't have said it better"


Reading the open letter from Representative Meeks in last week’s issue of The Wave, held – for the most part – no surprises. A congressional representative caught in a litany of serious ethics violations defends himself in the face of editorial criticism. What more could or should we expect? In his lengthy defense, Meeks singled out the caricature of Elgin Bolling, one of the triumvirate of cartoonists whose editorial images grace these pages. I, along with Robert Sarnoff, happen to be the other two. It is to this portion of the letter I’m responding.

In the last third of his open letter, Meeks goes on to charge that Elgin’s caricature was “explicitly racist,” violates “necessary sensitively” and inaccurately compares it to D.W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation,” a century-old film about the Civil War and Reconstruction. The idea of this comparison being, I suppose, to show how far back, in terms of racial equality/sensitivity, The Wave happens to be. Pure hyperbole.

Meeks is off the mark on a number of counts. First, it should be made clear that Elgin is an African American artist. A quick survey of Elgin’s work, easily seen at his subway surfer web blog, immediately confirms that he has done far more offensive caricatures of his own face than anything ever leveled at Meeks. Further, The Wave, in my experience, has always given a free hand to its contributing artists, but never, to their credit, asking them to either reign in or take vitriolic aim at any specific subject or public figure. In fact, as the news cycle goes, there is a one in three chance that any one of The Wave’s contributing artists could have leveled a graphic broadside at Rep. Meeks. It just happened to be Elgin’s turn.

Elgin Bolling is, first and foremost, a caricaturist; drawing from a rich tradition of “portrait-charge” or the loaded portrait, as it came to be known when first popularized in French magazines, around the time of that country’s revolution. Like Meeks, officials there were also offended by those drawings, more than once throwing the cartoonists into the clink for their efforts. Later, in the hands of Americans and the freedoms found here, the graphic vitriol became even more pointed with artists like Thomas Nast, whose graphic excoriations helped take down Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall. Boss Platt, who was to follow, attempted to pass legislation at the turn of the 19th century that would have blocked such political commentary.

In fact, it was Tweed who said, “I don’t care a straw for your newspaper articles, my constituents don’t know how to read, but they can’t help seeing them damned pictures.” So, it would seem that Gregory Meeks is in good company when expressing dislike for caricature. Almost confirming that history is – in fact – cyclical.

As it turns out, my likeness, too, has been inked by Elgin and I’d like to state — for the record — that it was a caricature and unflattering. I didn’t think to fire off a note to Elgin for singling out my Irish features, but why should I, this is what caricature’s function is. To exaggerate, distort and make fun of, otherwise it would have no teeth, becoming unremarkable, milquetoast and impotent. Elgin has nothing to apologize for; he was doing his job as an editorial artist. On the other hand, time will tell if Meeks, in sharing the opinion of Boss Tweed about caricature, will, one day, share his fate.

Does ERROL LOUIS of NY1 WANT to hear Elgin Bollings side of the story?

Following is a letter I wrote to Errol Louis of NY1 Inside City Hall show, in response to him having Congressman Meeks appear to air his grievance about The Waves editorial, and my cartoon in general.

As I have maintained in my blog posts since this issue raised. The Congressman is entitled to his opinion, and should be allowed a forum to express himself concerning the issue that the cartoon points to.

He has the rift, from his point of view to call the cartoon racist.
It's that statement that I take odds with. Since cartoons don't create themselves, if you follow the logic, the creator of the cartoon must be a racist as well.

I have a right to defend my reputation as much as the Congressman has to defend his. It was my hope that NY1 would see it that way.

Thus far, they have chosen not to respond.

I wonder why?

From: Elgin Bolling
Date: October 20, 2011 11:58:32 AM EDT
To: ""

Dear Mr. Louis
My name is Elgin Subwaysurfer Bolling Editorial Artist for The Wave Newspaer in Far Rockaway NY.
The first thing I would like to make clear is this:


Unfortunately, Queens Congressman, Gregory Meeks doesn't share the same opinion, as evidenced by his remarks on page 29 in a recent letter to The Wave, and most recently, on your broadcast, as listed below.
The editorial cartoon, he feels depicts African Americans in a way that is reminiscent of racist portrals from the film Birth of a Nation

As an Editorial artist who draws public elected officials, I am fully aware that from time to time I will encounter someone who is not pleased with what has been drawn, because a picture really is worth a thousand words, as another  editorial artist, Thomas Nast, would agree, no doubt , if he was still among us.

Surprisingly, throughout this whole affair, I have not received one email, or phone call to give my side of the story, and to answer these accusations, save for the Queens Tribune, last week.

I am easy enough to find, I am one of New York City's most sought after live Caricature Entertainers, and my blogsite, at

Is one of the most popular of it's kind online.

Since this issue first came to my attention, I have posted on my blog, numerous rebuttal articles, and audio podcasts refuting his claims of racist, divisive characterization of black elected officials, and show numerous pictures of past cartoons drawn for The Wave to demonstrate that.

For me, as an Editorial artist who draws Caricature,my intention is usually to find something humorous in the facial features if a subject and exploit that, by squashing, stretching,   Emphasizing or De emphasizing.

I demonstrate, how I have also, given equal exaggerated artistic treatment to Caucasian Public officials like Former School Chancellor, Joel Klien, Anthony Weiner, and even our very own Mayor.

I have no Ax to grind. I illustrate and interpret editorial copy. If I've committed any crime, it's been in being too humorous maybe, but don't sit there and assert that I'm a RACIST! After all, IM A BLACK MAN TOO!

Or did anyone stop to look at that fact? Does The Congressman truly think that I would purposefully draw a cartoon which demeans my own people? At best, that makes me a race hater and a fool. At worst, it makes me an Uncle Tom.

Feel free to go to my blog to validate what I've said here. 

Elgin Subwaysurfer Bolling
(ps I'm called Subwaysurfer because I draw caricatures of subway committed, NOT because I ride outside the train!)