February 20, 2017

An Interview with Fine Artist Ashley Doggett


Photo cred:  Sam Angel

Welcome to the second installment of These My Nominated Bitches! Today's bitch was nominated by friend and fitness hero, Alexis Hoag. I've since had the pleasure of meeting Ashley and seeing her work in person. You guys, go see her work, and in the meantime, follow her on Instagram. Alexis, take it away!

**

I first encountered Ashley through her well-earned reputation as someone shaking up the local art scene. Native Magazine published a piece on her last fall, detailing Ashley’s personal story and some of the themes she tackles in her work – race, gender, sexual violence, and slavery. Queer women of color experience the world in ways that draw on the intersectionality of our identities. Knowing Ashley was here in Nashville expressing her unique experiences and perspective through art excited me. I remember thinking, I have to meet her; I have to see her work in person! I immediately started following her on social media and viewed a small collection of her work at the Wedgewood-Houston Art Crawl in January. Nashville Dry Goods store featured a collection of five of Ashley’s cross stitching pieces and two ink drawings. I was blown away. Ashley’s deceptively simple lines told an explosive and raw story, ripping apart idolized images of slavery popularized by Gone With the Wind, and turning those images on their heads with nudity, subtle text, and honest brutality.

I finally got the chance to meet Ashley at her second big solo show in February, “A History,” at Channel to Channel. She was rocking a sequined jacket and standing proudly with her mom. I felt like a fangirl when I introduced myself, gushing about her work. She could not have been kinder. Ashley’s paintings at Channel to Channel were mesmerizing. The white face, pink hair, and expressive eyes featured in many of the works were captivating. Nashville is so fortunate to call Ashley a “native,” as is anyone who encounters her art. It gets under your skin and in your brain, forcing you to grapple with whatever assumptions you may have regarding race, gender, sexuality, and power. Although Ashley’s paintings and the cross stitches share the same subject matter, the mediums are incredibly different and Ashley excels in both. I met Ashley a second time when I purchased one of her ink drawings, “Master Leeroy’s Mansion,” at Watkins, where she is a student. She was warm, approachable, and chatted easily about her work.

Already incredibly accomplished, Ashley has an exciting road ahead of her. I am thrilled to witness some of her Nashville journey and happy to share her talents with others! -- Alexis


What do you do and what is the name of your business?

I’m a fine artist and have been the assistant at Watkins’ Brownlee O. Currey Jr. Gallery for the past four years.

When did you first learn about this field of work? How did you know it was what you wanted to do?

Art has always run in my family and I simply decided to pursue it out of wanting to be immersed in a creative field where I could flesh out my talent and touch the lives of others actively.


What is the best piece of advice you were given when starting out?

I honestly was never given any advice off the bat. Many in fact were advising me to not make the work that has given me so much recognition. If anything, my mother has actively told me to make quality work with a message and to stick to my guns. My mentor Brady Haston has been also very direct with me when it comes to creating pieces that demonstrate my skills, as well as communicate my ideas effectively, whereas early in my freshman year of college he told me to keep sketchbooks as a foundation for my practice.

Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned? Has learning from that mistake led to success?

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in the art world is to be very careful of people’s intentions towards you. I have learned to not jump at every opportunity that comes my way and have as a businesswoman come to know how to decipher what other’s goals and aspirations are for my hard work. It’s been very lucrative for me as of late, but some connections are not long lasting ones or very dependable.


What would you do with 2 more hours a day?

Paint for sure! Making art is my life!

What has been the biggest sacrifice you’ve made?

I wouldn’t necessarily call it a sacrifice, but I would say limiting my time online when it’s not pertinent to my career. That means cutting back on distractions that keep me stationery in a computer chair rather than me being in my studio making work. When I’m not being distracted or filling my mind with useless dribble, I’m more clear in my ideals and can make work.


What is your greatest success, or something you’re most proud of related to what you do?

As of late, all of the positive press as well as the gallery shows I’ve been a part of have been very rewarding. I’m proud that I am making those who care about me proud as well as the fact that I am enlightening others on issues that surround the African American experience. In a way, I am an educator by proxy as an artist, and it’s a very life enriching task that’s befallen on my behalf.

What do you love to come home to at the end of the day?

My family and my studio! My home is very important to me. It’s a place where I can unwind, shut off, or engage with my mother.


What motto or quote inspires and motivates you to be yourself?

“He that likes to exalt himself shall be abased”, Luke 14:11

Although I am not very religious, I am extremely spiritual and knowing that those who have too much bravado and no humility about themselves will eventually be brought back down to Earth is spellbinding to me. It’s one of the things that keeps me humble through anything that comes my way or gives me notoriety. It also means that God as the supreme judge will handle those who act in this manner curtly and precisely.

When self doubt hits, what do you do to build yourself back up?

Most of the self doubt that I’ve faced has come from outside sources simply telling me that I will either not amount to anything or that my work is, quite frankly, not doing anything to educate others. Being written off as an ‘angry black woman’ or having my gender identity be denounced in academic settings at one point was very devastating to me and forced me to be quiet. In the end, I have learned from several other artists of color, as well as my main support system, that my voice is valid and deserves to be amplified. I look back on my ancestors especially and how they were silenced and forced into the shadows, and in this day and age, I refuse to do such a thing. It only serves to make me push harder and harder!


Is there a fear or challenge that keeps you up at night?

At the moment I am concerned with grad school, but I put everything in God’s hands and I wait patiently. I try to take one day at a time and keep with a mentality that some things are out of my control until the day comes for them to come into fruition.

Are there any women who helped pave the way for your success?

My mother fore-mostly, as well as my grandmother. There are several young women in Nashville as well as around the world who see my work as having a very strong feminist vein, especially in the world of intersectional feminism. I have also been nurtured by several older women of color who are artists and educators who are doing amazing things in their communities and world wide. Many of the people who patronize my work have as well been women, so most certainly!


Lastly, and most important, what is your favorite TV show and what is your favorite snack?

At the moment I’m obsessed with West World. It’s just a fantastic take on an old sci-fi film. As for snacks? If a hot bowl of ramen counts, then that has to be it.

All photos courtesy of Sam Angel

P.S. Meet last week's bitch:  Clinical Trial Manager, Shanna Cobble!

P.P.S. Full list of My Bitches here.

February 17, 2017

Friday Links


READING THIS WEEK...

What Beyonce Won Was Bigger Than a Grammy

NYFW's biggest trend is protesting

Lisbeth Salander is coming back

Um, Nicole Kidman almost married Lenny Kravitz

WATCHING AND LISTENING...

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt - Season 3

Well, this is terrifying. Fresh Air: How Retailers Are Watching Us.

I ENDORSE...

What The Fuck Just Happened Today

A Day Without A Woman

Snacks Snuggles & Naps

lulz...


WHAT WE'RE FIGHTING FOR...

When Good Christian Girls Need Planned Parenthood
Sara Novic, The Cut

Donald Trump Just Made His First Action Against LGBTQ People
De Elizabeth, Teen Vogue

INSPIRATION...


EVENTS...

New Works by Duy Huynh - Opening Reception
Sat, Feb 18, 6pm
Art and Invention Gallery, 1106 Woodland St

The 4th Annual Heartbreak Happy Hour
Sun, Feb 19, 6:30pm
Jackalope Brewing Company, 701 8th Ave S

TN Equality Project Nashville Committee: Planning for Action
Mon, Feb 20, 6pm
OutCentral, 1709 Church St

Justice4Jocquest pt. 2
Tues, Feb 21, 5:30pm
Legislative Plaza

Tell Senator Corker: No Ban. No Wall. No Raids. #WeAreAllAmerica
Wed, Feb 22, 9am-5pm
Sen. Corker's Nashville office, West End Ave

Free Extrasensory Art-Making Workshops
Wed, Feb 22 - March 3
Frist Center for the Visual Arts

We Are Watching - No to SB127
Thurs, Feb 23, 8-10am
TN State Capitol

TN House Democratic Caucus #WeAreWatching Meeting
Thurs, Feb 23, 12-2pm
Legislative Plaza, Room 33
(recurring weekly, also on FB Live)

Conexion Next Inaugural Mixer
Thurs, Feb 23, 5:30pm
Conexion Americas

February 13, 2017

An Interview with Clinical Trial Manager Shanna Cobble


Today's bitch forces me to remind you that I was in a sorority in college. It's funny, when you go through sorority rush, you hear over and over how these girls will be your friends for the rest of your life, and in my case, it turned out to be true. I met Shanna in 1997 when she joined the sorority I was in.

When I was still running, I coached a Couch to 5K group every summer for East Nasty. One summer, Shanna showed up in my group and we were both like, "I know you!" Nashville, the biggest small town in the world. I'm glad Shanna agreed to be a bitch for many reasons, but mostly because I have never understood what in the hell her job is. I thought she was a professional Predators game attendee who spent a lot of time in airports. Meet today's bitch, my friend, Shanna Cobble!


What is your job title and where do you work?

I’m a Clinical Trial Manager at ICON Clinical Research. ICON is a Clinical Research Organization. Pharmaceutical companies come to us to conduct whatever part of a clinical study they don’t want to run. Sometimes it’s only one thing and sometimes we conduct the whole study. I’ve been with ICON 11 years this month and started off as an Assistant and then a traveling Clinical Research Associate. I became a manager over a year ago.

When did you first learn about this field of work? How did you know it was what you wanted to do? 

A woman came and spoke to my Pharmacology class when I was in nursing school. She was a Clinical Research Associate (CRA), which is a person that visits sites conducting the studies to ensure compliance with the protocol. The position sounded so cool and glamorous. I was set on becoming a nurse though and didn’t think much about it. It wasn’t until I switched my major back to Biology and then after college that I remembered her speech and started researching the position and industry more.

What is the best piece of business advice you’ve been given? 

You have to be able to turn off and separate yourself from this.

After seven years of being based in an office, I went home-based. It is so easy to just check emails really quickly at night and then wonder where the last hour and a half went. Being able to turn my computer off and not think about work at the end of the day really helps to not get burned out.


Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned or that helped improve the way you work? 

I’ve really learned time management and organization through this job. I have also learned MANY travel tips and could tell you the call letters of most US airports.

What would you do with 2 more hours a day?

Read or watch TV (horrible, I know). I feel like I don’t have much time to just sit anymore.

What is your greatest success, or something you’re most proud of related to what you do? 

It’s always a great feeling to see a commercial for a drug for which you worked on a study. I love knowing that we are actually helping people with what we do.


How do you decompress at the end of the work day? 

As I said, I work from home, so I tend to either walk the few steps to my couch and watch something from TiVo really quickly or take my dog, Bella, for a walk. I like to get out and see friends for dinner and/or drinks for human contact. I also have season tickets for the Nashville Predators, so that takes up a lot of my time during the long hockey season!

What’s a fear that keeps you up at night? 

What DOESN’T keep me up at night? I wouldn’t necessarily call it a fear though. My mind tends to turn on at night and I overthink every single thing that happened and every single thing I said that day, both work and personal.

What is one thing everyone gets wrong about what you do? 

Everybody always think I work in a lab. When I traveled as a CRA, people thought that I went to different labs. They also thought that I was seeing the world. I HAVE been fortunate to go to many places, but a lot of times I only saw the airport, hotel, and doctor’s office.


What does self care look like in your life? 

It’s not as good as it should be. I have been trying to eat clean the past few months and have been more successful with that than anything I’ve ever tried. I try to walk everyday, but I HATE cold weather and that tends to not happen when it’s cold.

What helps when you’re stuck? Do you have a motto or quote that inspires/motivates you?

I don’t really have a motto or quote. I just step away for a bit and take a break. Maybe go for a walk (if it’s warm!).

Are there any women who helped pave the way for your success?

I learned so much from a friend and former manager, Jill Colabella. I was a CRA when I was on a study with her, but she always gave me things to do to help me get the experience I needed in order to become a manager. She would also always be real with me with what the position entailed. When I was interviewing for the position she was so great and kind to help me prepare and to help remind me of all I had done. She’s so awesome!


Lastly, and most important, what is your favorite TV show and what is your favorite snack?

My favorite TV show is Outlander. My favorite snack that I rarely eat is Plain Ruffles with Purity French Onion dip. My favorite snack that I let myself eat is a banana and either peanut butter or Nutella. Also chocolate milk!

All photos courtesy of Shanna Cobble

P.S. Meet last week's bitch:  Finance Blogger and Money Coach, Kate Dore!

P.P.S. Full list of My Bitches here.

February 10, 2017

Friday Links


READING THIS WEEK...

I started following Rahawa Haile when she was posting a short story a day, and then followed along last year as she hiked the Appalachian Trail. I hope a book is coming out of this, and if so, I can't wait to read it.

I want to get this whole article tattooed on my body.


Rest in Power, the legacy of Trayvon Martin.

Shaking my fist at Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

WATCHING AND LISTENING...

I've been watching the three-part ESPN documentary O.J.: Made in America. Turns out, there's 30 years of information I don't know about O.J. This documentary is fascinating, and it's streaming on Hulu.

RuPaul was on the Anna Faris Is Unqualified podcast and it was everything I wanted it to be, including Ru telling Anna and Sim that he would cut the callers off 10 minutes before they do, #prayerhandsemoji.

I ENDORSE...

THIS CAFTAN!!!

Re-buying the outfit I wore to my high school homecoming (see: lulz).

Nashville designer, Ceri Hoover, at Anthropologie.

lulz...


SHERO CORNER...

Cameron Esposito turned a crude joke by Mike Huckabee into an $18,000 crowd-funded donation to Trans Lifeline, a crisis call center that helps connect members of the transgender community to resources and emergency aid.

WHAT WE'RE FIGHTING FOR...

I Am a Priest, and This is Why I’m Pro-Choice
-- Reverend Broderick L. Greer, Teen Vogue

She Showed Up Yearly to Meet Immigration Agents. Now They've Deported Her.
-- Fernanda Santos, The New York Times

Town Hall Confrontation on ACA Repeal
-- Katie McDonough, Fusion

INSPIRATION...




via Courtney M. Privett

EVENTS...

Conexion Americas: Valentine Open House
Fri, Feb 10, 8:30am-7pm
Casa Azafran

Aminals - New Work by Brett Douglas Hunter
Fri, Feb 10, 6-9pm
Elephant Gallery, 1411 Buchanan St

A Night Of: YK Records Benefitting TN Equality Project
Fri, Feb 10, 7pm-1am
Mercy Lounge

Good Trouble: a Resistance Workshop
Sat, Feb 11, 11am
Casa Azafran

Artist Talk/Q&A - Alex Lockwood
Sat, Feb 11, 1pm
Zeitgeist Gallery, 516 Hagan St

We Are Watching Rally
Mon, Feb 13, 4pm
Tennessee State Capitol

Nashville Feminist Collective: Transformative Justice Monthly Meeting
Mon, Feb 13, 6pm
Germantown Co-Housing Common House, 1325 5th Ave N

Postcard Writing Night
Thurs, Feb 16, 6pm
Gift Horse, 1006 Fatherland St, Ste 301

Driving While Black Community Briefing
Thurs, Feb 16, 6:30pm
Gideon's Army, 600 28th Ave N

February 6, 2017

An Interview with Finance Blogger and Money Coach Kate Dore


Welcome to the first installment of These My Nominated Bitches! Today's bitch was nominated by my friend Alexis, who wrote this lovely intro. Alexis, take it away!

**

I first met Kate many years ago through a girls happy hour set up by mutual friends (RIP Taco Tuesday). I was very interested in Kate's (former) job, but was mostly obsessed with her dainty hands and enviable brows. At the time, she was managing shows for bands and comedians and I was impressed by how aloof she was about working closely with the likes of Louis CK and Aziz Ansari. I remember her lamenting the grind of the job and the travel associated, but was still surprised when she announced that she had quit the job with no back-up job in place. This has never seemed like an option for me, so I'm always amazed when friends take this leap.

I started seeing mentions of Kate's blog in my social feeds and was instantly curious about her interest in finance, and especially in her net-worth "overshare" posts where she listed her assets and debts in great detail. I barely have the nerve to look at my own bank statements so this concept continues to fascinate me. I love watching her net worth grow, despite setbacks, and getting financial guidance from someone I relate to and know I can trust. I am so excited that she decided to pursue her certification as a financial planner. My dad is a CFP® so I know second-hand how rigorous the classes and certification process are, and how the work will help Kate's career goals.

Kate is a Real Deal Badass Bitch working in a field where bitches are outnumbered, so I'm very happy to promote her brows and her business in any way I can. --Alexis

What do you do and what is the name of your business?

I am a personal finance blogger, freelance writer, money coach, and aspiring CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™* My business is called Cashville Skyline.

*This is how the CFP Board requires we refer to the designation. I know it looks weird capitalized and with the ™ symbol in casual conversation.


When did you first learn about this field of work? How did you know it was what you wanted to do?

Four years ago I was depressed, burnt out, and desperate to get out of my dead-end career. I knew I needed to stop promoting concerts, but the long hours, travel, and stress left little time or energy to craft an exit strategy.

To make matters worse, I was regularly living above my means—buying designer clothes, partying multiple nights a week, and taking trips I couldn’t afford.

I learned about personal finance blogs through the forum of a free personal finance course I took through the University of California Irvine via Coursera.

I started my blog less than a year later, saved up a $20,000 emergency fund, and quit my job in the summer of 2014. A few months later, I landed a gig managing social media for a tech company, and I used my online marketing experience to grow my website.

After spending my 20s in entertainment, I knew I wanted the next phase of my career to have a more direct impact on others’ lives. For me, that’s helping people with their money.

What is the best piece of business advice you’ve been given?

Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle or end.

Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned or that helped improve the way you work?

In the past, I’ve wasted too much time making lists and getting organized out of anxiety. Now I just try to dive into my work quickly.

What would you do with 2 more hours a day?

A daily yoga class and cook tastier, more nutritious meals.

What has been the biggest sacrifice you’ve made?

Over the past couple of years, I’ve made a couple of risky career moves—quitting a full-time job without another one lined up in 2014 and not pursuing another full-time gig in 2016 after a huge company layoff.

These both have included a significant (but temporary) reduction in income. Last fall, I skipped a close friend’s wedding in Massachusetts and my boyfriend’s family ski trip in Colorado to keep my budget balanced.

What is your greatest success, or something you’re most proud of related to what you do?

Last month, I launched my first free e-course and it has been completed by nearly 100 students. And last week, I released my first paid course!


Do you have a morning ritual that helps you set the tone for the day?

I try to wake up by 7 or 7:30 and eat within one hour. Usually, it’s a piece of Ezekiel bread with avocado or almond butter plus a banana. I also enjoy a fresh ground cup of black coffee.

How do you decompress at night?

I *try* to step away from the computer and stop looking at my phone by 10. I enjoy a cup of Trader Joe’s ginger & turmeric tea. However, I haven’t been sleeping as well lately, so I’m thinking of adding some light yoga or meditation to help.

What helps when you’re stuck? Do you have a motto or quote that inspires/motivates you?

I am passionate about helping groups who have traditionally been underserved by the financial services industry—specifically women, people of color, and lower income folks. I try to remind myself of my why when I’m feeling discouraged.

What does self-care look like in your life?

I meet with a trainer and therapist who specializes in food issues once per week each. I’m also part of a body positive weight loss group. I try to walk outdoors for at least 15-30 minutes each day, and more recently, I’m working on being more mindful about my eating habits to avoid stress or emotional eating.

Are there any women who helped pave the way for your success?

Currently, only 23% of women hold the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ designation. I’m super inspired by women who are successfully running their own virtual, fee-only financial planning firms like Pamela Capalad, Katie Brewer, Sophia Bera, and Mary Beth Storjohann. Total rockstars!

Lastly, and most important, what is your favorite TV show and what is your favorite snack? 

Favorite snack? Tough to pick just one! Avocado with anything, raw cashews, apples with almond butter.

Favorite show? Don’t laugh—ABC Family’s Switched at Birth. An episode back in 2013 was the first television episode shot entirely in ASL!

All photos courtesy of Kate Dore

P.S. Meet last week's bitch:  Artist, Louisa Glenn!

P.P.S. Full list of My Bitches here.

February 3, 2017

Friday Links


READING THIS WEEK...

The full text of Roxane Gay's keynote speech at the American Booksellers Association Winter Institute.

I loooooved this Friend at First Sight article in Lenny Letter about friends who meet, fall in friend-love, and then discover they live in different countries.

Kim France:  Don't Tell Me to Dress My Age:
"Knowing what looks good on you is very nearly impossible when you’re young and obsessed with hitting all the trends. A woman with a sample-size body can always look good, but I like to see a woman who’s worked with what she’s got to produce a compelling solution."
I've been a reader of Will's blog Bright Bazaar for years, and I'm glad that he weighed in on how he, and other "influencers", should stand up for what's right at the risk of *jeopardizing their brand: Fighting For What's Right Is Worth It.

*Sidebar -- throw some extra likes to the local, independent businesses you follow on Instagram because a lot of them are losing followers for things like being at the Women's March, or "liking" feminist posts.

Five Ways To Help Refugees In Nashville

WATCHING AND LISTENING...

I finally watched The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story. Holy crap! If you haven't watched it yet, believe the hype - it is amazing. And it's streaming on Netflix.

Because no one loves me, I had to find out on my own about The New York Times podcast Still Processing MONTHS after it started. This podcast is hosted by Jenna Wortham (shero) and Wesley Morris. I'm in love.

I ENDORSE...

A memoir by Kim France coming in fall of 2019
An arena full of children singing They Might Be Giants
Emily McDowell's new canvas pouches: Yoga Ladies and Beach Ladies

lulz...


WHAT WE'RE FIGHTING FOR...

Fake news has been targeting women's reproductive rights for years -- Rebecca Traister

All international laws Trump's Muslim ban is breaking -- Jamil Dakwar

EVENTS...

Support Immigrant-Owned Restaurants
Jan 28 - Feb 10
Nashville, TN

Wedgewood/Houston Art Crawl
Sat, Feb 4, 6pm
Nashville - Hagan Street

First Saturday Art Crawl
Sat, Feb 4, 6pm
Downtown Nashville

MESA Festival & Syrian Refugee Fundraiser
Sat, Feb 4, 6pm
Vanderbilt University Student Life Center

Welcome Home! Fuad & Family Arrive at BNA
Sun, Feb 5, 7:45-8:30pm
Nashville International Airport

We Are Watching Rally
Mon, Feb 6, 3pm
TN State Capitol

Metro Council Meeting
Tues, Feb 7, 6:30pm
Metro Courthouse, One Public Square (can livestream online)

Conexion Americas: Valentine Open House
Fri, Feb 10, 8:30am-7pm
Casa Azafran

Aminals - New Sculptures by Brett Hunter
Fri, Feb 10, 6-9pm
Elephant Gallery, 1411 Buchanan St, Nashville

A Night Of: YK Records
Fri, Feb 10, 7pm-1am
Mercy Lounge

January 30, 2017

An Interview with Artist Louisa Glenn


Today's bitch is one of my favorite people. Louisa is like an electric blanket with a short in it - warm, safe, and electrifying. She is loving, kind, curious, smart, engaging - the list goes on. You'll have these fascinating, hilarious conversations with her and then get home and wonder how much time has to pass before you can text and ask her to hang out again.

Like many modern relationships, Louisa and I met online. One day we were both Instagramming our way through a thrift store, and a handful of mutual friends noticed we were in the same neighborhood and asked how we don't know each other. So we DMed and decided to meet. The night before our "first date", Louisa called and we talked like we were middle school girls whose parents were asleep on the other side of the house. It was glorious and we've been friends ever since. Meet my thrifting soul sister, the talented, Louisa Glenn!


What do you make and what is the name of your business?

I create paintings that are largely influenced by traditional quilt patterns, so lots of building geometric compositions piece by piece and exploring retina-melting color palettes. Fluorescent red is my favorite. And no rulers allowed! I like wild, off-kilter, unmeasured wobbling lines in my work, contrasted with crisp edges. Sometimes I make prints of my work. My business is me, Louisa Glenn.

When did you first learn about this field of work? How did you know it was what you wanted to do?

Fortunately, my family prioritized art and creativity when I was growing up so there was lots of crayoning and painting from really early on – a quiet time to focus and build worlds outside of myself. And it’s held a central place in my life ever since. I took something crazy like 11 semesters of art in high school, burned out in the midst of AP art as a junior and felt unmoored. But that was also around the same time when I was keeping journal-y sketchbooks that I only just had the courage to open again at the end of last year. With the help of wine, obviously, because you definitely need a barrier to protect yourself from the scathing embarrassing fire of unbridled suburban teenage angst. What I found, besides a few all-caps statements like REASON IS A WHORE (thanks Martin Luther!) was the same sentiment over and over: I want to be an artist, this is me, this is what I love. Expressions of wonder at technique and color and form. And again, I want to be an artist. It was an unexpected affirmation.

I didn’t know that painting and creating was what I'd dedicate all my free time to until recently, maybe because the message I’d consistently heard was “oh that’s nice, but you can ‘do art’ when you retire” or other general skepticism about leading an art-filled life and the inevitable struggle that would ensue. I used to care a whole lot about what other people thought I should do. I mean, I have a degree in Arabic and Middle East Studies and I worked in international development for four years, I thought I wanted to be in the Foreign Service.

I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything, but when I look back at the times my life felt like everything was freewheeling, tumbleweed-ish and out of control, those were the times that I had strayed furthest from my creative self. And it was art that brought me back. I only started to pursue painting seriously in the last three years since I moved back here to Nashville, my hometown – because all of a sudden I had the bandwidth to explore! Like, no day job responsibilities after 5pm so that’s when my brain really starts lighting up. And I literally have the space, which is intoxicating. When I paint there’s this calm that gently washes over, maybe from focusing so intently on precise clean edges - ?? But I feel centered, like somehow the air I’m breathing is more full, and I feel invigorated, closer to being whole. Painting keeps me level and makes me totally fucking insane all at the same time.


What was the best piece of advice you were given when starting out?

I remember when I was teetering on the edge of sending my work to a gallery for the first time back in the summer of 2015, feeling like I wasn’t ready, worrying about getting rejected, so many anxieties. And one of my dearest friends who was pushing me to hit the send button basically said, “What do you have to lose?”

I ask myself that question all the time, and the answer is absolutely nothing. That cautious “Hi, please look at me” email in 2015 led to my first show in Nashville, which was exquisite and made me hungry for more. I’ve had a healthy balance of acceptances and rejections since, every time I get a yes I’m overjoyed! When I hear no, I obviously rant for a little bit before I say okay dang well I’ll try again later. I realize over and over again that I’m putting myself out there because this is what I love. I’m not afraid to be vulnerable, tell my story and bare my soul. I have nothing to lose.

Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned or that helped improve the way you work?

Learning to say no and not feeling guilty about it. For a while I thought I needed to say yes to every opportunity that came my way because it might lead to another amazing thing, but then I got really tired and fell behind on deadlines. I felt like I was scrambling all the time and it was gross. I wasn’t able to focus and produce satisfying work that made me proud.


What would you do with 2 more hours a day?

Two whole hours? I would definitely take a nap - not to brag, but I’m a champion couch-napper. A friend once told me that if couch-napping was an Olympic sport then I would be Michael Phelps. And then I would spend the rest of that time reading some good old fiction. I’ll read most anything, but I have a real book boner for Scandinavian crime novels, and mysteries in general. My apartment has a delightful corner room with big windows that used to be my studio and is now what I like to call my conversation suite – three mismatched armchairs nestled in amongst lots of plants and an exceptionally productive radiator, all of which make for the coziest reading nook.

What has been the biggest sacrifice you’ve made?

Probably sleep, ugh. I get painting as soon as I can after I get home from work. A beautiful thing about painting geometric patterns and large swathes of stripes is that you can get lost so easily, fall out of time a little bit especially when one podcast episode flows so gently into the next. But then I stand up to stretch and step back to see how everything’s fitting together, only to realize that I’m famished and it’s 11:30pm. I push myself until I’m way too tired, which is dumb but I have lots to do! And sometimes I can’t stop. I’m making a real effort to go to sleep earlier - it’s not a battle that I’m winning yet.

What is your greatest success, or something you’re most proud of related to what you do?

Lots of exciting things have happened since I started dedicating myself to living a creative life. Mainly, I’m thrilled that other people are picking up what I’m putting down on canvas. But my greatest measure of success is that I can look back at my work from when I started painting in earnest two years ago, and see that my work is developing and changing. My color palettes have become more complex, and I’m getting more adventurous with my compositions. That evolution lets me know I’m engaging with and responding to the world around me, and I can’t wait to see where this journey takes me.


Do you have a morning ritual that helps you set the tone for the day?

My mornings are a straight up MESS. My ritual is hitting the snooze button a thousand times (three on each alarm, actually), dozing and scrolling through Instagram or the New York Times with one eye kind of open, and then obviously scrambling because I’m technically supposed to be at work by 8am. If I’m lucky I have time to make myself a to-go mug of pour-over coffee while standing in my kitchen in my underpants, feeding my cat and brushing my teeth. There was a time in my life long ago when I would wake up early to make a pot of tea and write letters to my friends while intermittently staring out the window over a foggy landscape. Kind of what you imagine living in a Jane Austen novel might be like.

I guess that if anything, my unintended ritual is throwing myself in the shower no matter how clean I am when I claw my way out of bed. It’s the place I come to life and get a little clarity while steaming like a lobster. It’s where I set my resolve, and do a little low-impact yoga stretching. I’ve had good luck so far, but I should probably get one of those no-slip mats, or at least some of those rubber flowers with suckers on the back. Right?


How do you decompress at night?

Oh lots of little things. I take my cat for a walk which is always a real gas, he’s a big fluffy dork and watching him run halfway up a tree while on leash is hilarious. I drink giant mugs of hot tea, usually Detox tea which is delectable and also gives me a delicious (if false?) idea that I’m absolving myself of small misdemeanors one mug at a time. Mint or chamomile will do the trick too. And then I have a deck of exquisitely illustrated tarot cards on my nightstand. I’m just sort of delving into tarot in a very casual way, but doing a quick check-in in the evenings helps me to pull apart and look at any feelings roiling around under the surface. For a while I kept pulling the seven of cups which is all about being lost in choice, and I was like OKAY I GET IT AGHHHHHHH.

What helps when you’re stuck? Do you have a motto or quote that inspires/motivates you?

After trying really hard and failing spectacularly, I’ve accepted that I can’t paint my way through being stuck – like, I’m glad I realized it but also it’s annoying. I look back at pieces where I tried to push myself through, and I can totally tell that they’re forced. I usually paint over them pretty quickly.

Messing around with other arty activities really helps because I stop fixating and, if I’m really lucky, I stumble on unexpected beauty that I wind up weaving into my work. A couple weekends ago I started dabbling in ice dyeing fabric, which results in a beautiful ethereal wateriness. Yeah, let’s just say there aren’t many white textiles left in my house. I also spent a chunk of time “curating” (i.e. binge ordering patches) and sewing them on a denim jacket which I L-O-V-E, best gift EVER from thrifting goddess The Blonde Mule herself! Around Christmas I was trying to breathe deep and meditate because #holidaze amirite? So I made necklaces by stringing sequins on thread and that helped me refocus.

There’s a verse of Rumi’s poetry that I’ve wrapped around myself like a blanket, I found it when I moved back to Nashville. Do you know Rumi? Well if you don’t, get on it because he’s an 11th century mystic poet who’s all about ecstatic union with a higher power, and his words turn my knees to jelly. My favorite poem says:

“There was a dawn I remember when my soul heard something from your soul/I drank water from your spring and felt the current take me”. 

The second bit is my favorite, I whisper it to myself often as a reminder to just take a deep breath and go with the flow. I actually have a tattoo of it as a lady with water rushing through her body. There’s another poem of his about seeing the person you love across the crowd at a garden party and having to pretend to be just friends and kiss them on the cheek when what you really want to do is devour them, I can’t remember exactly what it says. But to me all of Rumi’s work is stunning and challenging and a glorious reminder of what it means to surrender to joy.


What does self care look like in your life?

Staking out quiet time, away from my phone or other noise. Thirty minutes of floating in a pool of nothing lets me calm down and clear my head when I feel crushed by all the small things I need to do. Sometimes this accidentally leads to a nap, but usually I spring up, ready to get back at it.

Are there any women who helped pave the way for your success?

The list of women artists I admire is so long. One in particular though is really special to me - Willie Betty Newman, who I think is a great-great aunt (??). She was born in Murfreesboro back in the 1860s, left her husband and young son to go study art in Cincinnati, won a scholarship to study in Paris, and wound up painting in salons with Cezanne and all those dudes. She struck out on her own around Europe, painting beautiful landscapes and portraits, and her work was selected for exhibition - pretty incredible for a lady at that time!!! My family talks about her and I’d seen a few of her pieces, but until her exhibit at the Parthenon in 2002 I didn’t really understand the scope of her work. Her use of color is breathtaking, and her story is really inspiring.


Lastly, and most important, what is your favorite TV show and what is your favorite snack?

So, I’m weird and I don’t have a television or the internet in my house. It’s a self-preservation thing, also I know myself and I for sure wouldn’t get ANYTHING done if I had streaming capabilities. But I listen to everything I can while I paint, so here are my current favorite podcasts in no particular order:

Stuff You Missed In History Class
The Moth
Invisibilia
Death, Sex, and Money
Magic Lessons

SNAXX!!! I love snaxx. Cheese and crackers is my number one favorite. Some kind of soft cheese like brie or camembert, maybe a sharp cheddar, with a fancy savory jam – caramelized garlic and onion jam is the bomb dot com, or fig spread. I have a deep and abiding love for oat cakes, but McVitties’ digestive biscuits do the trick as well. Now I’m hungry.

All photos courtesy of Louisa Glenn

P.S. Meet last week's bitch:  Work-At-Home Mom, Amanda Bair!

P.P.S. Full list of My Bitches here.

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