Hello, and welcome to Constellation Issue Three: The American South. I’m Suze Myers, art director and co-founder of Constellation.
If you’re a repeat reader, it’s so nice to see you again. And if you’re just discovering us, we’re so happy you’re here.
It seems fitting that a publication named after the portentous arrangements of starry skies be given a small, symbolic gift on this, our launch day. By sheer cosmic coincidence, this issue arrives 10 years to the day that my family moved from Palo Alto, California to Huntsville, Alabama.
As I recall it, my transition across the Mason-Dixon line at 14 years old was far from graceful. I was suddenly displaced from my Silicon Valley childhood and found myself in a completely unfamiliar environment. We moved into our new house on a quiet suburban cul-de-sac, adjacent to a golf course, on what must have been the hottest day of the year (we were wrong; it only got hotter). And thus began a culture shock that continues to resonate with me.
All these years later, I’m still grappling with my adopted homeland as a Southern transplant, an artist, and a woman of color.
My complex relationship to the South lives within a larger question that no one, least of all people who have never spent time there, seem equipped to answer: What does it mean to be from the South? As has been made starkly apparent in the past couple years, for much of the nation, the South is often painted in broad, painfully clichéd strokes that eclipse the individuality and nuance of each city, each community, and each person—regardless of their politics.
Viewing the South as a caricature-filled monolith turns it into a scapegoat for the rest of the country, framing it as a misbehaving sibling on which to pin our country’s shameful past and complicated racial and ethnic history—one we are still grappling with. It also whitewashes all the people of color—in particular, Black Americans—who populate this region, and minimizes its complexities and contradictions in the process.
It wasn’t until I was 19—back for summer break, a glass of muddled-mint sweet tea on my windowsill, a storm shifting the greenest leaves against the paned glass—that I thought, Damn, this place is beautiful. And, perhaps more importantly: Damn. This place is home.
With this issue, we at Constellation seek to shine a light on women and non-binary folks working creatively in and around the South in ways that defy or complicate the prescribed narrative, while also celebrating the ways this region has shaped them. The stories you’ll find here may even change your perspective on places you thought you knew.
Among the many gems in store: a stunning cover portfolio, featuring model Christ Moses, shot by photographer Emily Alben, set against the backdrop of New Orlean’s hyper-saturated swamps at the height of crawfish season. On-the-rise filmmaker Kimberly Aleah talks about drawing inspiration from Atlanta’s music scene and her ongoing goal of telling stories “with, for, and about Black women.” Designer Rika Mady offers a visually rich portrait of Florida’s cities through carefully arranged flora and ephemera-filled still lifes in a way only a Jacksonville native could. Alabama-raised, Austin-based songwriter Caroline Salle, a.k.a Caroline Says, shares a glimpse into the process of crafting her most recent record, No Fool Like An Old Fool, which mines the question of what it means to leave or stay in a place that inevitably shaped you. Franchelle Lucas, most recently seen performing alongside Solange Knowles during her captivating tour for A Seat At The Table, shares her insights on art as a social responsibility; Gabrielle Gamarello, proprietor of MANO Mercantile, talks leaving city life to birth a concept shop in the vivid creative community of downtown Marfa, Texas. Self-taught visual artist Bronwyn Walls discusses displacement and reshaping her geographical identity during her recent relocation to New Orleans, the city she and her family evacuated in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
And we’ve barely scratched the surface.
With all that said, we invite you to sit back, relax—perhaps with a glass of sweet tea?—and enjoy our exploration of this nuanced, multifaceted, and beautiful region of the world. We hope we did it justice.
—Suze Myers, art director and co-founder
& TEAM Constellation