Serge Seidlitz Brings Florida Home for the Wall Street Journal
All eyes are on Florida right now, and rightly so. Hurricane Matthew left behind incredible destruction, and it couldn’t have come at a worse time. The presidential election means there are 29 electoral votes up for grabs from this influential swing state made ever more complicated by the chaos of the hurricane. But when Florida isn’t the focus of national attention every four years, often the state is the butt of everyone else’s jokes. For American author and columnist Dave Berry that’s presented a personal and professional problem as the writer is always having to answer for his state. The Wall Street Journal recently asked Berry to give that formal answer in the pages of their newspaper and invited Serge Seidlitz to help him tell it. The result is “Florida: The Punchline State,” an explainer of the state, defense for it, and anecdotes from a life lived there. Serge distilled all of this into a single image that tells many stories.
We’re all familiar with the Florida Man of hilarious and terrifying headlines, but Serge was tasked with bringing him to life, as well as the place in which he lives. Through Serge’s lens Berry is bearded, be-speckled, and boozed, with a ten gallon hat, wearing no more than flip flops, a swimsuit and a tucked tank top. And even though this is his story, we must understand his environment. And that’s what Serge delivers to us in spades. Nothing is left out.
From magic kingdoms to mosquitos to an over abundance of sharks to massive cockroaches to lots of mosquitos to incredible bowlers to clouds and clouds of mosquitos, the cast of characters that fills Florida goes way beyond Disney’s stalwarts. Tourists and pirates and golf cart drivers crisscross the states. But perhaps the most appropriate image is three elections officials examining the chads from the 2000 election, tiny pieces of punched paper that left the electorate barely hanging on, and whose existence created the world we live in today. So much from these tiny pieces of paper, and so much in Serge’s illustration. Unless you live in Florida you’ll never truly understand the complex experience that Berry has to live with every day, and why everyone else expects him to speak for his whole state. But at least Serge can give us a taste. And it’s delicious.