Political landscape gotcha feelin’ squeamish? Regardless of which side of the aisle you align yourself — or how far tuned out you try to stay — we can all meet in the middle on at least one thing.

With politics comes satire and comedy — and front of mind: area resident and iconic N&O cartoonist Dwane Powell, whose nationally syndicated work is now open to public viewing in the City of Raleigh Museum’s exhibit “‘You Really Stuck it to Me Today’: The Political Cartoons of Dwane Powell.”

“The museum exhibit’s title appropriately stems from a quote made by North Carolina’s iconic senator, Jesse Helms, who, after viewing a cartoon, called up Powell and exclaimed, ‘You really stuck it to me today’ – but still asked to display the artwork,” says Ernest Dollar, director of the City of Raleigh Museum.

Ergo, Dwane Powell brings wit to the whack. The retrospective, an encapsulation of Powell’s 40-year social commentary, pokes fun at a host of complicated social issues, roasting both Dems and Republicans alike.

Representative of one of the icons of a dying breed of political cartoonists — there are less than 40 staff cartoonists at newspapers across the country today versus approximately 2,000 at the turn of the 20th century, according to a report by the Herb Block Foundation — and at a time when we arguably need their witty commentary most, the multiyear exhibit includes a 15-by-7 foot mural handpainted by Powell himself along the museum wall, featuring a gaggle of politicos who Powell regularly skewers.

Feeling salty? It even comes complete “with a dry-erase scribble wall where visitors are welcomed to vent their own thoughts during these highly politicized times,” says Dollar.

Here, we tapped Dollar for some more tongue-in-cheek commentary on why the Powell retrospective is a must-see. … See you there!

Why you should go:

KICK-ASS ART: Dwane Powell’s cartoons are killer. For a guy who stumbled into cartooning, he wields a pen like a ninja. The show features original cartoons spanning his 40-year career.

SOUL-BEARING: Rarely can you get into the mind and soul of an artist. You come away from the exhibit understanding how Dwane creates his satirical masterpieces and discover how a boy from a deeply segregated town in Arkansas grew to fight prejudice with a pencil and humor.

WALL ART: How often do you get to draw on the walls of a museum? Markers let kids draw their own cartoons on our wall while mom and dad get to leave their own thoughts or vent — depending on if you laughed or not.

Full mural by Powell, part of the works at COR Museum.

GUT-BUSTER: The necessary thing Dwane’s artwork does is remind us to laugh at politics. I think everyone can agree these days, a little humor is a strong tonic. The wit and satire of his cartoons force smiles, despite what party you prefer.

TOILETS, PARROTS AND RICHARD NIXON CLOUDS: You should not miss — in fact, you can’t — the original 15 foot-by-7-foot mural Dwane painted as part of the exhibit. Imagine playing Where’s Waldo with ghosts of American politics. The larger-than-life diorama, with its lengthy presidential necktie, makes it the best selfie station in Raleigh.

“‘You really stuck it to me today’: The Political Cartoons of Dwane Powell”
The City of Raleigh Museum, 220 Fayetteville St. Raleigh
On view through June 2019
Museum hours: Tuesday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday 1 to 4 p.m.
First Friday:  6 to 9 p.m.
Admission is free; donations accepted
Group tours available with advance notice
More information at cityofraleighmuseum.org or call 919-996-2220

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