Some words to help cope with watching the latest political coverage least I hope so!

 It’s Super Tuesday! Are you afraid? Are you very, very afraid? You should be. But let’s save that conversation for after the results come in, shall we?

Anyway... I have a story for you today. Well, a couple of stories. They're about people I've encountered through life who have taught me about intelligent interaction. Have a seat and start reading.

When I was in high school I became pretty interested in the political process. I used to think it was because I was obsessed with the television series, The West Wing, but it was recently pointed out that I was newly engaged to my husband when it premiered. I was pretty young when A. popped the question at our favorite restaurant, but I was at least a couple of years on the correct side of legal adulthood!

So, I guess all of the credit for this interest goes to my parents, teachers, and the week I spent in the Presidential Classroom program in Washington. However, I can’t leave Congressman Jim Clyburn out of this. One day I was allowed to skip the several hours we were to spend with at the Canadian Embassy* to shadow the South Carolina representative. I was pretty proud of myself when I walked into his office. I’d spent the week learning about the importance of going into a political discussion armed with facts and knowledge supporting both sides of an argument, been offered an internship by a lobbying firm,**and frustrated several boys by besting them in many of our daily debate practices. By the time I started playing authorized hooky I was about as bigheaded as a teenager can get. I wonder if Congressman Clyburn noticed my newfound arrogance when he found me eating cupcakes with his staff in his reception room. He probably did, because it wasn’t the first time we’d met (he and my parents were friendly at the time, and I’d been stung by a wasp on his Lake Marion fishing dock at least twice). I remember his Congressional aide giving him a good-natured roll of her eyes when he emerged from his office, then looking back at me and saying, “Don’t let him give you a hard time, but he’s about to completely wear you out.”

I basically had to sprint to keep up with Congressman Clyburn’s impossibly zippy stride as we navigated Capitol Hill’s underground tunnels. We waved to freshman Rep. Sonny Bono, who chuckled at the sight of a fit sixteen-year-old gulping for air in order to keep up with a man in his mid-fifties. I sat in on a couple of meetings. I don’t remember what they were about because I was too grateful to be seated, but I remember being asked by other representatives what I thought about a thing or two. Hopefully my memory lapse here means I didn’t say anything too embarrassing. 

Later, Congressman Clyburn's aide met us and we pushed our way through the crowd heading to the floor for roll call and and voting. The three of us were smashed into an elevator in which the aide and I were the only females, and since I hadn’t yet hit my full height of 5’5”, all I could see was the black and navy fabric of several suits. 

When the men exited, I remained on the elevator with the aide to continue further up to a viewing area. 

“Did you see him?” she breathed excitedly when the elevator doors closed.

“Who?” I asked, worrying about the extent to which I’d sweat through my brand-new houndstooth blazer.

“John F. Kennedy, Jr. almost got into the elevator with us just now!”

image of John F. Kennedy, Jr. via

image of John F. Kennedy, Jr. via

At this point, our ten-or-so year age difference leveled out as we squealed, and when we got to our viewing spot we proceeded to crouch, lean, crawl, and whisper back and forth in order to catch a glimpse of Kennedy’s gorgeous hair. The thought didn’t even occur to me to ask why he was on the House floor. I was too enthralled by it all — the meetings where Republicans and Democrats convivially worked out the business of government and the feeling of being at the site where the country’s most important decisions were made. I was especially overwhelmed by my newfound humility as I realized the amount of knowledge,  worldly acumen, and intellectual ability required to keep up with a crowd like this. While I never gained any political aspirations, I was a hooked superfan — not of a particular political party, but of the American political system. I wish I could say the same as an adult in 2016.

People sometimes ask when I knew I wanted to be a writer. The short answer (in what’s become a very long post) is that I don’t really remember not wanting to be a writer. The experience I just described with Congressman Clyburn (which I doubt he even remembers — he was busy working, after all!) was an important shift in my journey toward an inherent knowledge of who I was to become as a writer, which is more important than knowing what I want to write about or in what genre. I credit those few hours as significant to the directional pull of my life and work philosophies.

I found myself thinking about this the other day when my friend Alicia Barnes interviewed Congressman Clyburn the day after the South Carolina Democratic Primary. Alicia is one of the most positive people I’ve ever met. Admittedly, I’m not an easy person to get to know past a superficial level. I don’t know if that’s due to my astrological sign (Capricorns rule the world!) or because I was one of those children who considered books to be better playmates than most humans could be, but it’s an understandably annoying trait to past, present, and future confidantes. I’m sure that as a result I’ve occasionally come off as snobby or self-centered, when the truth is that I’m easily distracted into becoming so hyperfocused that I forget there’s a world outside my office, which turns into a spiral of thinking the world is too busy to hang out with me. Alicia is one of those friends who doggedly pushed through that. She’s one of my little crew of friends who taught me what it means to keep special friendships as a grown-up. 

When Alicia interviewed Congressman Clyburn, I could see that dogged care she applies to her friendships being applied to her viewers. She was honestly representing their concerns to their U.S. representative, while also asking the types of questions our population isn’t trained to ask anymore when it comes to analyzing and sizing up presidential candidates.

Even earlier in the week another friend asked a question at CNN's Democratic Town Hall Meeting. To say that Marjory Wentworth is an intellectual and thoughtful person does no justice. Her mind always works at an intellectual clip that is faster than everyone else's in the room. If you don't already know Marjory's work (she's poet laureate for S.C. and writes brilliant prose, as well), you will be unable to avoid it in the very near future. 

It gave me hope to see some of the people who've taught me about grown-up interactions and friendships appearing in front of the world in an effort to make clear away some of the rhetorical noise and finally spur some important, critical thought into this mess of an election cycle. If these three got through my hard head during different phases of life, perhaps there are more out there effectively working to get through the hard heads who are making it unbearable to watch television or even have a dinner party conversation. Check out what Marjory had to say below, but first--and I hate to do this--I need to post a warning:

 I’m not posting these videos here for people to leave comments that are anything but what I described above regarding the way one is supposed to enter political discourse. It would make my week to see proof that people can log onto the internet to discuss the political landscape without resulting to name-calling, rhetoric-parroting, and unintelligent babble. If you have something to say about the candidates or anyone else here, do so respectfully and knowledgeably, which means you should have read something about them someplace other than a partisan blog before having something to say.


*Sorry, Canada. Please don’t hold that against me if I come knocking at your door next January.

**Short version: I struck up a conversation with some guy on the Capitol subway, told him why there were so many 15- and 16-year olds on the train, and then proceeded to try out my new information-based conversation skills on the poor guy. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) I hadn’t yet learned what one is supposed to do when given a business card and a request to keep in touch.

Point Suite

A look inside the world of contemporary art with Annika Connor

Has 2016 been moving at hyperspeed so far, or is it just me? In the last three weeks I've had more amazing work projects pop up than the last three months combined, I've been interviewed on MSNBC,* one sick kid, two rounds of bronchitis for me, my website crashed, and Charleston was taken over by both political parties within the same week. Phew! I need a mid-year vacation already!

Just before 2016's robust beginning I had the chance to meet Annika Connor during her book signing at Blue Bicycle Books. Annika is a New York-based artist, curator, and official friend to many established and emerging artists. The book she was promoting is called Point Suitewhich was a collaboration with fellow artist Nicholas Papadakis.

Artist and curator Annika Connor. Image provided.

Artist and curator Annika Connor. Image provided.

The idea for Point Suite began in 2007, just before the dawn of the Great Recession. While I'm sure there were many art-related creative projects that died at that time, it seems that the economic downturn may have been exactly what this project needed. Ever conscientious of the highs and lows of the creative life, Annika kept in touch with the artists she'd already recruited for the project. As digital tools democratized access to the art world, she and the other artists experimented and tested them out in business, vision, and work. The result? A beautiful volume that acts as a tangible and portable exhibition of contemporary art. If you have a keen eye for the patterning that has taken place throughout history to develop creative schools of thought, you'll notice the sense of rebellion that runs through this volumeI'd love to call it a conservative rebellion, stripping the word "conservative" of its recent political undertones. What we have here is a rebellion that backs away from the bad boyish behavior of the aughts. There's no abstract show of disdain and fascination toward Western consumerism á la Damien Hirst. Instead you'll find an unabashed love of craft, concept, and creative labor.

Annika was kind enough to answer some questions for me, and I'm pleased to share her answers below. 

*There will be more on the MSNBC thing later this week!

Is there a particular connection that happened through the project that stands out in your mind?

I have to say the biggest and most valuable connections I made as a result of this project were the business and legal lessons I learned in the along the way. When I had the idea for this project I was a young artist with no idea how to make this book idea into a reality. One of my first steps into finding out how to get set up lead me to discovering VLA. 

Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts is an incredible resources for young artists. Through attending lectures, book camps, becoming a member, and working with their lawyers I was able to learn the ins and outs of contract law, reproductions rights, licensing, and copyright. VLA has offices all over the country and I urge any creative with more ideas then know how to seek out their expertise. Check out for more info. 

How about a new and expected connection between you and one of the other artists?

I have a lot of stories of fun times and studio visits connecting with the various artists in this book however one of the moments that stands out the most to me is the first time I saw Woody Shepherd’s paintings.

I was up at Yale to see my old classmate and artist in the book Micah Ganske for his MFA open studios. (At this point I am not event sure if I had the idea for the book yet, or if I did the idea was just in it’s infancy.) In any event, I was wandering out around checking out the open studios when in I walked to Woody Shepherd’s space. The size and complexity of his work instantly overwhelmed me and my eyes were filled with delight. His work, when seen in person, is so rich in surface texture and vitality it’s unimaginably arresting. The scale of the paintings engulfed me and the tensions between his marks and the color harmonies made the brushstrokes seem to dance. I can scarcely recall a time I have been more transfixed by a painting then on that day.  It’s a memory I cherish and my admiration for him as an artist has remained as strong today as it was then.   

Image via Annika Connor

Image via Annika Connor

How did you and Point Suite's co-creator, Nicholas Papadakis connect? 

Nick and I met at the recommendation of a mutual friend Kristen Moser. Kristen had moved to LA a few years before and thought that I should speak to Nick as she had a hunch our ideas would over lap. Boy was she ever right. Nick came for a studio visit and it was in that very first meeting over a cup of tea and some art talk that the idea for this book project was born.

Was this your first collaboration? 

Yes this was our first collaboration and I have to say I have the utmost respect and admiration for Nick for sticking with the project. When we conceived of the book initially we knew it would be a hard project but we had no idea how difficult it would turn out to be. There were many points on the road when it would have been possible to give up on this dream, but thankfully Nick never did. I can’t thank him enough for his patience in seeing this project to completion, and I would welcome any opportunity to work with him again. 

How did your individual styles and artistic visions play off of one another during the typically arduous process of publishing a book?

Artistically Nick and I are very similar, we both make very labor intensive paintings. I think it was this, our natural patience as painters to devote ourselves to creating something very complex, that enabled us both to stay engaged by the book even when the time it took for us to publish it grew longer then we had ever planned. 

You've had the unique experience of continuously working on the same project before, during, and on the way out of the “Great Recession,” during which cultural attitudes toward art and publishing changed a great deal. What was the most surprising “before & after” factor for you as you witnessed these cultural changes? 

Ah well the upside of us having an idea for a book that took us nearly 8 years to create was that we got to see a lot of changes occur in the art world and incorporate some of that into our vision for this book. Point Suite highlights the work of 34 rising art stars, but at the time we discovered these artists they were all relatively unknown. 

I’ve been living as an artist in NYC from 2004 to the present day. So I have had a front row seat to see the strange paradox of the art world. I have watched as the global economic markets crashed while the art markets continued to soar. I have gotten to see the lunacy attached to the astronomical price tags of auction values over the years while simultaneously seeing young galleries shut their doors due to lagging sales. I have been an emerging artist struggling to pay rent and barely able to survive, but inside the art world my champagne flute has never been empty. Through it all the strange economics of the art world have somehow managed to keep a dizzying buzz of creativity always afloat. What this all means and where it is leading us is perhaps the makings of another book though. 

Image via Annika Connor

Image via Annika Connor

Did the financial markets crash help your approach to the business of producing and selling art?

Oh this is a complex question. It is no doubt that the events of 2007-2008 had an enormous impact on all of us. As an artist, I found that once people realized the full impact of what was going on it suddenly became nearly impossible for me to sell paintings for a few years. I had to learn really quickly how to adapt to this and how to get creative to make ends meet. 

Fortunately I had joined the Screen Actors Guild in 2007 and when all other industries were slowing down Hollywood was booming and filming inNYC was growing at a rapid rate. Seeing this I quickly turned to my acting work (as it was the only job I could get) and hilariously it was through working as an actress that I was able to survive the lean times as a painter. 

Ultimately this was great for me. The acting work gave me a much needed yet creative side income and over time it influenced my paintings to be more narrative in nature then they had been before. The acting also trained me to be more confident in front of the camera and poised when speaking with others. This training has been invaluable to me now when I lecture. 

Paradoxically the lack of sales was also very valuable. Knowing no one was going to buy anything for a while gave me a certain creative freedom. Sure a few painting sales came in here and there along the way, but the relatively little sales enabled me to have an uninterrupted period of growth where I could work on creating a large new body of work. This ultimately was very helpful to me because when the opportunities finally started rolling in I was ready and waiting with quite a bit to show for my time. 

Going back to the idea of connections… In what way do you hope people will use Point Suite to connect to others, and/or the world of art? 

First and foremost I hope the Point Suite book and be a guide for anyone looking to have inside insight into what is happening today in the art world. I hope that by examining the artists in this publication, the viewer and reader will gain new insight into what is currently being created around them. I hope that young artists will see this book and be inspired by the DIY determination of Nick and myself to capture and create something beyond ourselves. I hope that by putting a tangible book in people’s hands and on to their coffee tables I can pull my viewer away from the screen for a minute so that they may see something new without the lens of technology. And finally, I hope that by opening this book my readers will turn a new page of inspiration in their imagination and that the art in front of them will be the spark for a whole new creative fire. 

Click here purchase a copy of 'Point Suite.'

Privilege and tripping over our own language

A New Zealand illustrator provides an alternative method for those of us who've struggled to explain today's use of the word "privilege."

The problem with trying to explain what people really mean when they talk about privilege in 2015/2016 is that most of us explainers are too close to it. Many on both ends of America's race debate spectrum use the big, bolded bulletpoints in their arguments, ignoring the subheadings that may seem more race-neutral.

I get it. Sort of.

Out of necessity, the modern (post-modern?) definition of privilege has been simplified. The downside is that many lack the ability to apply the nuance of individual experiences. People can't see past the way they've lived (also called "employing empathy"), so some become defensive upon hearing the argument that white = privileged, and black = not privileged. "What do you mean, 'privileged?' I'm not like those rich, fat cat white guys who helped destroy the economy! I work for a living. My life isn't easy!"*

It's hard to explain that privilege has many faces and levels. Many aren't ready to hear that a postgraduate-educated black person both does and does not hold privilege. They have the advantages of education, but when they walk into a crowded room there will almost always be more than one person who views them with suspicion and who won't imagine the possibility of their black counterpart having had as much or more education than themselves until it has been proven to them. 

The thing is that the word privilege isn't about race. It's about access and opportunity. In America it's a historical fact that people of color have had considerably less access and opportunity than whites. This will remain a fact until the color of one's skin is no longer a determining factor for how they're treated. 

Our words our tripping us up on this issue. Sometimes the visual needs to be called in to take over, which is what Auckland, NZ-based illustrator and comic artist Toby Morris did in May 2015 in his comic for The Wireless. I've posted the comic strip below, and I won't detract from it by saying anything else other than "Thank you, Toby."

images via

*I always find it odd when people who make arguments like this simultaneously idolize those supposed rich, fat cats, equating their purported wealth with the idealized "having it made," failing to realize that a big house and a fancy car often means one has to work even harder to maintain such things.

When a community business goes tone deaf

Alternate Title: Why companies should only have trained professionals representing them on social media...

Or, perhaps: Why companies should put neighborhood solidarity above corporate image, and why all employees should be clear on what both of these things mean...

Earlier today Quintin Washington, a well-known journalist here in Charleston, posted the following on Twitter:

image via Quintin Washington

image via Quintin Washington

Much to his surprise, he received a response from Charleston’s Courtyard Marriott asking him “not to include the hotel in mother AME [sic] photos.”

The Courtyard Marriott's tweet has since been deleted and an "apology" issued.

The Courtyard Marriott's tweet has since been deleted and an "apology" issued.

When I saw this exchange I—along with much of the Twitterverse—was baffled. No one would have noticed the hotel in the photograph if they hadn’t responded. The image had nothing to do with them. 

A friend of mine happens to be in town this week doing research for her book, and since she’s staying at the Courtyard I sent her a text message suggesting she ask the front desk about the tweet. "We just want to keep the focus on the church,” is what the young woman working at the desk told her. 

“I said he just happened to include the hotel in the photo without commenting on the hotel,” my friend told me. “She nodded and paused and said, ‘we've been with them through everything they've been going through.’”

This particular hotel is located on the same block as Emanuel A.M.E., so yes, they have been through a lot. The hotel’s employees were undoubtedly shaken to the core the night Dylann Roof killed nine of the Mother Emanuel parishioners who were attending a weekly Bible study. Out-of-town family members stayed in this hotel during the aftermath that sent the entire Charleston peninsula—and state of South Carolina—reeling in a spiral of questions and grief. 

Having only lived on the peninsula since August, my husband and I have become a bit weary of the groups of people cutting through our neighborhood on tour buses and on foot to visit the church. Every day they stand in front of this important community cornerstone. They point as they recall details they’ve seen on the news. They take endless selfies. Sometimes I wonder if the congregation has grown weary of all of the attention. It’s been six months since they buried nine beloved members of their church family. The grieving process takes time, but how much does that process slow down when the building that supports it—and the grief itself—has become a daily tourist attraction? 

I’m sure many in Charleston have had similar thoughts, but the young twentysomething who explained the Courtyard Marriott’s reaction to Washington’s post was misguided and/or out of touch. Washington’s intentions were clear and heartfelt. He wanted to capture a shot of the stretch of road that was recently renamed “Mother Emanuel Way Memorial District” as it appeared on a warm, beautiful December day. As we later exchanged messages, Washington told me he’d never seen the Courtyard respond like this in regard to Mother Emanuel. My friend had heard the young woman tell another employee that she would “handle” questions about the tweet, and at one point she referred to actions on the account in the first person, but when asked if she was the person handling the account she said no. It seems to me that the young (I assume) person handling the Twitter account was—either on his or her own accord or in response to some corporate directive—trying to distance the hotel’s branding from the Mother Emanuel tragedy. When a backlash started to wash over the hotel’s Twitter account, she tried to backtrack and make it sound as if the reply had been out of concern for their neighbors rather than corporate branding. Even if the person managing the account was somehow acting out of a desire to protect Emanuel A.M.E., he or she clearly lacked the experience or public relations acumen to pull it off in such a public sphere.

I hope this doesn’t signal a leveling off of the swell of love and concern Charleston businesses and neighbors showed toward each other over the last six months. The city has proven itself capable of reaching great heights of transcendent love and empathy. I wish it hadn’t taken a tragic loss of life for these traits to be exposed to the world, but it would be a shame to let it dwindle now, when so many continue to reel over the seemingly unpredictable nature of this time in history.

Unsolicited Opinion: A Thanksgiving PSA

My first video in months is fairly self-explanatory. Happy, happy holidays!

A quick note...

Obsessed with Searching For Zion

Have you ever read a book that completely rocked your world? I'm in the midst of this kind of forced rumbling of the emotional tectonic plates right now. The next several days are filled with deadlines and busy work (yay!), but I had to take a quick pause to share Emily Raboteau's Searching for Zion with you. 

In 2015 more people are having conversations with themselves about their blackness, their brownness, their whiteness, and any other racial or sexual identity that is part of the patchwork that makes up an awareness of self. Our culture calls upon us to label ourselves and others in ways that chips away at our richness as human beings. Raboteau's memoir looks this labeling and inner monologue dead in the eye. It's painful. I'm even finding the reading to be just painful enough to have to take it in small, hyperobsessed doses. The story not only exposes a conversation that America desperately needs to have with itself, but it investigates the idea of what makes a land "home," and why displacement has psychological effects that ripple through generations.

All I have left to say (at the moment) is, buy this book. 

From Chelsea Clinton's March curation of's blog

Still A Boys' Club

We've seen so many headlines regarding the problem of gender equality in the tech world. I don't know if the feeling is different for my friends on the West Coast, but when the numbers and stories started rolling out I was astonished. Surely a modern industry that specializes in... well... being modern... would be ahead of the curve when it comes to hiring women, paying them the same wages as their male counterparts, and treating them with the same respect as their male counterparts. Even now, when I'm older, wiser, and have female friends who hold prestigious positions within or connected to the Silicon Valley, I'm shocked every time I see reports of the Silicon Valley "Boys' Club" that would have been confirmed rumors during the 1960s instead of now. 

When Chelsea Clinton curated the ONE Campaign's blog last month, she made sure to share news about America's gender equality issues. She shared this article from Fortune, which includes an analysis of the largest, most visible and celebrated companies that don't have a single woman sitting on their boards. Did you know that only 25 out of the Fortune 500 have a woman CEO, and that 23 of those boards are all male? If you haven't seen these stats, get reading and get talking!


I think that my March 8 post may have been the last thing I wrote before slipping into an oblivion of illness. My husband left for London and the boys and I immediately came down with an insipid version of the crud. On Friday I was doing a happy dance because we'd all recovered and everyone had been sent to school in for the first time that week.

What's that's saying about counting chickens? I woke up on Saturday morning not feeling quite right. By midday there was this strange swelling in my neck and face that was growing scarier by the minute. It turned out that I had mono, for crying out loud! Well, a mono-like virus, to be accurate. It seems like I've been asleep ever since. Right now, at 10:15pm, I've been awake since 4. This 6 hours and 15 minutes is the longest I've been awake since Saturday night! 

Anyhow, I'll slowly be getting back to writing and to #DiversityMeans over the next few days, but I just wanted to pop in and let you guys know that I haven't gone AWOL on you! 

Take care of yourselves and please stay healthy!