Rob Walker | Essays

Spawn of Gerrymander: Lisa Congdon’s North Carolina 4th

There are two surprising elements to Congdon's vision of "North Carolina's Infamous Leafy Sea Dragon."

The first is that the leafy sea dragon is an actual thing. "I'd once illustrated a leafy sea dragon for a children's book about unusual animals," she explains. "Otherwise I might not have ever recognized North Carolina's Fourth Congressional District's likeness."

The second is that a working knowledge of incredibly obscure fauna might be particularly useful to an illustrator challenged with the task of creating a Spawn of Gerrymander in today's North Carolina. "Infamous" is an apt description of a state that appears in journalistic accounts of contemporary congressional mapmaking for having more in common with Dr. Seuss than participatory democracy. (The state's Twelfth District also makes frequent appearances on "most-gerrymandered" lists.)

Vox succinctly sums up the results here. Most North Carolina voters supported Democratic candidates for the House of Representatives in the last election, and yet, the state's House delgation is overwhelmingly Republican. How does that happen? Ask the Leafy Sea Dragon.

Illustrator Lisa Congdon is best known for her intricate line drawings, hand lettering, and pattern design. Since 2007, she has been working for clients that include The Museum of Modern Art, Martha Stewart Living Magazine, Chronicle Books, the Obama campaign, and Simon & Schuster. She lives and works in Oakland, CA.

Spawn of Gerrymander is a series in which some of our favorite illustrators use their talents to help us see the true shape of poltical mapmaking in the twenty-first century: introductory essay here; browse the whole series here. This project has been made possible in large part by a grant from The Awesome Foundation's Awesome Without Borders chapter.

Posted in: Illustration, Politics

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