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On Style with Constance Y. White

Constance Y. White, 42, was recruited to Charlotte to be vice president of public art at the Arts & Science Council, where she intends to “raise the level of acculturation for public art in the Charlotte region.” Born and raised in Dallas, Texas, she earned a B.F.A. in art history with a focus on Greek antiquities from Southern Methodist University’s Meadows School of the Arts. She spent nine years as the public art coordinator for the city of Dallas, and eight as art program manager at the San Diego International Airport. White’s artistic skills include printmaking, painting and designing jewelry.

Q. What’s the first piece of clothing you remember choosing yourself?

A. I believe they were Garanimals. There were tags on the clothes, which helped you to mix and match with patterns and colors. For me, this was fun.

Q. How did your parents affect your style?

A. My dad always wanted my clothes to be ironed. My mother always wanted my clothes to match.

Q. What would surprise people about your style choices?

A. I shop everywhere. I shop at Target, at Goodwill, at Neiman’s and Saks Fifth Avenue in New York. I shop at Ann Taylor. The label doesn’t matter. If you like it and it feels good, it should be part of your collection.

Q. How does your sense of style help you do your job?

A. Art is a translation of style and taste. It is subjective. I see the world through a lens that makes me investigate how things come together.

Q. How does it affect your color choices?

A. I investigate nature a lot. When you go outdoors, you see a mismatch of colors and shapes and how they interact with each other. That is God’s expression. Even on my drive to work, I watch how the environment changes so much, the trees change with the light.

Q. How does the translation of style and taste affect the choice of an art installation?

A. My preference for facilitating the process is to let the artist know the place first. I would never buy something I’ve not seen. It’s hard to make something for a place where you have never been. How do you measure the authenticity?

Q. What color do you favor?

A. Blue. It’s ethereal, it can be soft or stark. It’s related to the elements, water and sky. It’s my nonrepresentational persona.

Q. Tell me about your dream dress.

A. It’s by Monique Lhuillier. I saw it in a magazine two years ago. A year ago she was having a sample sale and I drove to L.A. They only made eight of these dresses and it was $10,000. I didn’t buy it, but later I was interviewed in San Diego, and they published a photo of the dress with the interview. Two years later Monique Lhuillier was selling samples. The salesperson called me, and it was the right size.

Q. You’re prone toward high heels?

A. I have an early memory of seeing my grandmother in high heels and I couldn’t wait for her to take her feet out of them so I could put them on and clunk around. My first pair of heels were gray with a little bow, and I begged my mother for them and I wore them until I had to staple everything back together.

Q. What three things are always in your purse?

A. A journal, a bell on my key chain and something art-related, like a brochure or magazine.

Q. What piece of clothing can’t you live without?

A. Pencil skirts, and if I see one I like that is articulated by a particular stitching or piping, I’ll buy one in every color.

Q. What are two staples of your wardrobe?

A. T-shirts and tank tops. I like Mossimo T-shirts from Target because you can dress them up or down. It’s because I just came from San Diego, where layering is important because there are microclimates.

Q. Describe your look in three words.

A. Eclectic, original, confident.

Q. What does your hair say about you?

A. My grandmother would say “Why?” It says being an individual is important to me.

Q. What are your favorite products?

A. I am loyal to AmorePacific skincare. I like DivaGirl hair products and for makeup, I am a Beauty Insider at Sephora. My level is Sephora VIB Rouge.

Q. What do you miss about San Diego?

A. I miss having that moment when I would walk to my garage and I could hear the hummingbirds do their squawking chirp. San Diego has a very eclectic quality, that whoever you are and whatever you do, it’s OK.

Q. Who is your muse?

A. My daughter. I’m in awe of her as a human being. I feel very blessed and honored that God gave me the privilege of being her mother.

Q. Tell me a pet peeve.

A. I would like for women to think more about their body types and the clothes they put on – because I studied Greek antiquities, and I think every body form is beautiful. When we accentuate that through fashion, everyone can see that beauty. It esteems us.

Q. Have you made a bad fashion choice?

A. I have a collection of skinny jeans and I’m not skinny.

Q. What was your biggest splurge?

A. My car. Grace is a Mercedes Benz SLK280 convertible. It was the car I wanted in high school.

Q. What’s your favorite drink?

A. Manhattan, up. I’m stuck on Jefferson’s Reserve right now, but I like Basil Hayden’s bourbon also. I also like Ketel One vodka martinis up, extra cold and dry, and if possible, a blue-cheese-stuffed olive.

Q. What’s the challenge of moving to a new city?

A. Orientation. Establishing something habitual.

Q. What intriguing art exhibit have you recently seen?

A. We were in a gallery in Chelsea (New York City) and they allowed Doug Aitken to dig a hole in the concrete floor and it was filled with what looked like milk, and the gallery was painted black. If you listened, you could hear this substance drip into this hole. There were so many people, and it was so quiet.