Interview with Elisabeth Stevens by Laura Schleussner on “The Sixties in Black and White”

November 25, 2015 by gosspress - No Comments

estevens_17_24_15.inddLaura Schleussner: When organizing your drawings for this book, I noticed that most of them are from the first half of the 1960s. Why?
Elisabeth Stevens: In the early 1960s I was living in a fifth-floor, walk-up apartment on York Avenue in New York City. I was working on my PhD in English Literature at Columbia and also writing a novel and teaching, and I needed money. You could get ten dollars apiece for these drawings, if they were published.

I mostly worked for three magazines: The New Leader, a liberal magazine, The National Review, a right-wing magazine, and Challenge, a business magazine. I would do sample drawings and then go around to different magazines with my big portfolio — you had to leave you portfolio with the editors. I would take the subway, and it was always hard to get through the turnstiles with the portfolio. My rent at the time was sixty-five dollars, so ten dollars for an ink drawing was something.

In 1965 I moved to Washington and started working for The Washington Post, eventually as a full-time journalist. Although I still did drawings of people I interviewed, I was very busy writing. I worked from 4:30 pm to midnight at the Post, and then I would get up at 9:00 am to write for art magazines, such as Arts.


Laura: The 1960s was a turbulent decade. This book begins with the wonderful drawing, almost a caricature, of Richard Nixon from his 1960 presidential campaign, which he lost to John F. Kennedy. Your drawings also feature the riots following James Meredith’s enrollment as the first black student of the University of Mississippi in 1962 and Kennedy’s funeral in 1963. Where you personally invested in these issues? Did you witness these events first hand?
Elisabeth: The images definitely reflected my opinion, even if I am not primarily a political writer or artist. To some extent my views were influenced by my first husband, Farrell Grehan, a journalistic photographer for The National Geographic and The Saturday Evening Post. Of course, working for different publications, I tried to capture current events. I certainly felt a bit funny working for the National Review, which was very slanted to the right. In my opinion, their articles were not always truthful.


See more from the interview and book: