Portraying Change

In March 2007, my grandmother came back from her job as an election clerk at a polling place. She was all riled up from talking with her fellow civic-minded nerds. And she said, “Katy (nobody but my aunts and my grandmother can call me that since the 4th grade), there’s a senator from Illinois who is absolutely remarkable. Mark my words, he’s going to be the first black president.” I had a long way to go to grow up, so I vaguely grasped how transformative that would be. 

In June 2012, I went to the Detroit Institute of Arts to see Tyree Guyton's work, the creator of the Heidelberg Project. Turning the corner from these works, I encountered a 10-foot tall portrait of a modern black man on a horse (Officer of the Hussars), painted in a traditional setting I was used to seeing with Napoleon-looking dudes. The style was so striking that I stood there in awe.

In September 2016, I had a call with a client who is a transgender educator. Marriage equality had just passed and I was amped on love. She shared her joy, as well, and then said something so prophetic that it gives me the chills, “it’s just too good. I can’t say why, but there’s bound to be a backlash for all the social progress that’s been made. We’ve come too far too soon and not soon enough all at the same time.” Enter the western world’s return to populism, xenophobia, denial of climate change, and so on.

In February 2018, I saw the reveal of the Obama’s national portraits.

Just wow.

Just wow.

When they go low, we feel high.