I could call myself a writer, editor, and artist; I have, after all, enjoyed some measure of recognition for those things. Then again, I've also met and worked with fascinating people as I successfully traversed the spheres of words and images. Yet what I really do is make connections, build narratives, and track creativity. It's the most fascinating pursuit I can imagine.
As a beginning journalist, I wrote about fashion, beauty and interior design at the time when designers were just becoming household names. In the process of interviewing people like Nicole Miller and Bobbi Brown, I began to draw connections that still influence my work. Talking to those who create and sharing their stories with readers convinced me that the big stories in our culture are the ones that are most pervasive. I realized I love design because it's an expansive topic, encompassing economics, politics, gender roles, and all the other major hallmarks of our time.
I feel the same way about cuisine. That was perhaps my best qualification as editor in chief of Cooking Light magazine, a Time Inc. property that became the largest-circulation epicurean title in the country during my nine years there. I was still talking to celebrities because sometime in the late 1990s, chefs overtook fashion designers as the new household names, and cooking became a bona fide cultural phenomenon. Simultaneously, I was also gaining invaluable experience in helping forge a successful business, and building powerful collaborative teams with my colleagues to respond to the ever-changing needs of the magazine's millions of readers.
The themes of collaboration, balance, and equality also show up in my decade's worth of work as a visual artist. They're particularly apparent in my abstract works. These repeated gestural marks—calligraphic and cursive lines made in charcoal, ink, paint, and metallic leaf—range from the refined to the expressive. The images that emerge begin subtly, and incorporate shifts of scale and accumulation of layers until a strong sense of unity emerges. As I explore these ideas in series and an array of media, I learn something new every day in the studio. My pieces reflect that.
It's long seemed to me that the thread that runs through all the writing, editing, drawing and painting I've done is creativity—my subjects', my readers, my viewers, and my own. The interplay between those elements always excites me as a writer and artist, and it informs the images and words I create.
Creativity drew me into the graduate program at the International Center for the Study of Creativity at SUNY-Buffalo State College, and it's the topic of my continuing research, too. What I'm discovering broadens my understanding of what sparks creativity in myself and others, how to unlock it when it's blocked, and ways to incorporate it in a range of circumstances with collaborators, readers, and viewers. In the process, I've come to understand my own creativity and that of the clients in the areas of art, design, and writing I consult with now.
[PHOTO CREDIT: Carrie Culpepper]