When he learned he's to be the next cartoonist laureate of Vermont, Brookfield resident and longtime New Yorker cartoonist Ed Koren said, he was "touched and bemused by it all." It's a typically low-key, self-deprecating response from the guy who has drawn more than a thousand wryly witty cartoons. Featuring hairy creatures with long noses, the single panels gently skewer human foibles — particularly those of the overly earnest, PC-obsessed type.
"It's a goof in a way, isn't it?" Koren said, then immediately began to riff on the idea of a laureate. "I'm growing indoor laurels — I'm making a wreath." He paused a beat and then added, "Maybe one made of copper so I can wear it year-round in Vermont."
Koren will be recognized on the Statehouse floor, with or without wreath, on Thursday, February 27. He's just the second cartoonist laureate of Vermont, following on the heels of Burlington's James Kochalka.
During his three-year term, Kochalka presented cartooning workshops all over the state, created a poster celebrating winter in Vermont and collaborated with Vermont Poet Laureate Sydney Lea to produce the Vermont Double Laureate Team-Up book for the Vermont Arts Summit last fall.
Will Koren follow suit? That remains to be seen. He will be giving a public lecture following the Statehouse recognition, though, at 3 p.m. at the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction.
Though Koren has lived in Vermont for more than 20 years, the advent of CCS arguably has elevated the profile of cartooning as a profession, and those of individual cartoonists. The state is also home to Alison Bechdel, Harry Bliss, Stephen Bissette and others. CCS, founded by cartoonist James Sturm and business partner Michelle Ollie, is turning out the next generation of talent.
Cartoons have always had a home at the New Yorker. Here's what editor David Remnick had to say about Koren's work, as quoted in a CCS press release:
The great imaginative artists, comic or seriocomic (what other kinds are there?), are great at least in part because they create a world: Baldwin's Harlem, Faulkner's hamlet, Chekhov's dachas. Ed Koren not only created a world — the Koren worlds are both urban and Vermontian, but all Koren — he also created creatures, part human, part fantastical, to represent and give voice to all of our anxieties, joys and craziness. Long live Ed Koren, his world and his creatures!
We'll be catching up with Koren again to find out how he plans to spend his laureate-ness. The honor, he said, "gives our lowly a profession a touch more respect."