REFLECTED is a visual story of past and present that sheds light on representation in historic spaces. Institutions that often exclude and erase the stories of Black, Indigenous, people of color, and marginalized identities.

Set against the dramatic, yet complicated, backdrop of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the series features diverse, local, visionaries of the present as they interact with the art and architecture of the past. Each individual photographed is celebrated as a work of art and the unique embodiment of their Own personal history and identity.

Throughout the images, you will see different aspects of the museums' interiors- sculptures, framed portraits, objects, furniture, and architecture, mirrored with each subject, transforming the space with their Own ornamentation and strength. The aged effects on the photographs were added to mimic old film photographic processes to symbolize that these stories have always been here.

The series creates a unique visual statement that captures this moment in time as we redefine, reimagine and create a future that reflects us all.

Featuring: Director, actress and writer Paloma Valenzuela, DJ, producer and organizer, Reap P, Chimel Idiokitas, Poet, writer, educator and futurist Porsha Olayiwola, curator and story-teller Khanh “Aiden” Nguyễn, and civil rights activist and community organizer Sumaiya Zama.

As a luminary at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, I was given the opportunity to explore and use the museum as a canvas for my work. 

Isabella Stewart Gardner collected artwork and inspiration for her palace mostly from Europe but also from around the world. Each room curated and arranged with her special touch. Since her death in 1924, she stipulated that the rooms never be changed, no artwork sold or acquired and it is left “for the education and enjoyment of the public forever.” Frozen in time, a reflection of her, but also of time and history. What artwork was valued within museums? What stories were told and who was depicted within the frames?

Walking the halls, I was captured by its ornate, detailed interiors and architecture, the tranquil courtyard that grew plant species from around the world, and the gold-framed portraits, but I couldn't help but feel so many stories were missing. Some objects felt familiar to me and reminded me of my Arab and Islamic heritage, an old lamp from a Syrian mosque, a tile from Istanbul, ancient pillars, and arches from Iraq and Egypt. The objects however felt taken out of context, and how they were retrieved and placed a million miles away, unknown. These questions are being asked around historical museums and institutions around the world and in America as a country that grapples with a violent exclusionary past. As an artist, I always ask myself how I can transform tension into beauty while opening up a dialogue on these complex issues. I felt a pull to reclaim these objects that reminded me of home to connect more fully to this space, a place meant to be enjoyed by all. I wanted to tell my own story within these walls and to tell the stories of the diverse people around me that inspire me. Reflected was born from this.

Special thank you to Brian Hone, Manager of Studio Projects at the Gardner museum for his guidance and support throughout the creation of this project. And to Rhea Vedro Director of Community Engagement who runs the Luminary Program, I was honored to be a part of. Many of the visionaries photographed were creatives I met through the Luminary program.
The series and its exhibition at the Education Studio at the Museum were funded by the Polly Thayer Starr Visiting Studio Artist program.