Another year in the books.
January 1, 2022 started just like 2021. I made gumbo and black eyed peas, watched the Twilight Zone Marathon…then I got to business clipping and pasting images, creating my vision board to chart my course for the year. However, there was one notable omission from my annual plan; I didn’t write out goals. Instead of supplementing this colorful sea of quotes, pictures, and bold proclamations with a detailed plan to anchor me to this vision, I veered off course and was caught adrift.
In the absence of something quantifiable to measure, some benchmark as a symbol of achievement, it’s admittedly difficult to say if this year was a success, and when I sit down to look at metrics for prospects, pitches, rejections, completed works, and special projects in the aggregate, what was the story behind the data? Without goals, the gulf between my starting point and destination grew. As a result, the woman and the life that I pieced together in a mosaic of paper and glue is barely recognizable. But that isn’t to say the year was pure folly, it just looked different. Sometimes we’re blown off course and the discoveries we make along the way are surprising.
In the novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neal Hurston writes, “there are years that ask questions and years that answer.” Ending the year with this provocation allows for a certain level of introspection that will help me set the stage for 2023. This is one of the many reasons I manage to keep this blog alive despite not watering it every day. This is a soft place for me to land as I look back, reflect, share, and move forward.
For starters, 2022 was the year of the interview. I talked to an eclectic mix of artists, artisans, craftsfolk, photographers, musicians, and illustrators, learning about their journeys, the lessons they’ve learned about life, and the creative paths they’ve cultivated for themselves. In addition to these published interviews, I used more platforms to speak about art. I was a guest on one of my favorite podcasts with the one and only Ritzy P. I participated in the MOMUS Emerging Critics Residency led by writer Jessica Lynne who invited me to speak to the summer cohort with writer Erica Caldwell. During this discussion I was posed a question by a participant that forced me to confront one of the more challenging aspects of being a freelance writer–the lack of community. This nudged me to build writing relationships beyond the transactional domain of freelance work. I led a panel discussion among North Carolina Black artists and creatives for CAM Raleigh where I continue to serve on the board. These experiences pushed me out of my comfort zone and I benefited greatly from the communities that have graciously welcomed me to participate with them.
I contributed 2 essays to exhibition catalogues that were published this year and this has been some tremendously gratifying work that has afforded me with an opportunity to dive into art that is rooted in the South.
If you’ve made it this far, I’d like to share with you the project that I worked on all year, quietly with a small group of writers and editors as part of the recently relaunched Curationist beta site. Curationist is a free, online art sharing resource that culls artworks and cultural artifacts in the public domain. Through Curationist you will not only be exposed to a rich trove of digital images that you can access and share, but you will also have access to editorial content and lesser known stories behind the works. Curationist seeks to broaden narratives using inclusive voices that shift the gaze, challenging readers and viewers alike to think about how art is collected, created, and shared.
I originally joined Curationist through their Critics of Color Residency earlier in the year, and worked with them through their December launch, providing editorial content that will slowly roll out on the site in the future. My first published piece is now online. It’s about a young woman and an image that has haunted me for over 3 years. This essay was truly a labor of love. It’s difficult to write about someone who is rendered “anonymous” in a photograph meant to malign someone far removed from the image, and yet the collateral damage of this overture extended far beyond its intended subject. Consequently, I was determined to tell her story. I took some stylistic liberties that veered from my traditional arts writing practice, and I am grateful to the Curationist team who indulged me in this process. I lived with this particular essay for months, fine tuning and editing over a longer period of time than I am accustomed to. As a result, it never felt “finished” to me because there was always some new question to ponder, or a new road to travel in researching this story. I consider this essay an introduction to a woman and an invitation to explore a topic that I will further excavate in 2023.
While 2022 asked a lot of questions, the answers I found invariably led to more inquiry. This process invites learning, and fuels progress. Questions are the stepping stones we use to walk bravely into the future–toward change.
I wish you all a year filled with questions and the courage to seek answers and grow.
Happy New Year.