The collection titled “Alanna Airitam: The Golden Age” honors the inspiring vision of Black Americans. Featuring ten stunning large-scale portraits, Airitam’s collection emphasizes modern African Americans as “symbolic saints” who send a powerful message to onlookers.
“Art is powerful and can move people,” said Airitam. “I use photography as my medium to share stories, generate action, and, most specifically, to empower and remind people of who they are despite how history or the media may omit, skew, or manipulate our stories to form false narratives about our humanity.”
“The Golden Age” refers to the era of portrait painting where Dutch Old Masters highlighted their sitters’ opulence by creating paintings of the merchant class. Airitam takes inspiration from these paintings in her contemporary portraits. She borrows their groundwork of dramatic lighting and rich fabrics and uses items as symbolism. Additionally, she cites the Harlem Renaissance period of blooming artistry in the 20th century by combining “Saint” with a street name in Harlem, New York, to create each picture’s fictional title.
This collection finds itself in a conversation about the erasure of Black experiences in retelling North American history for centuries. Airitam hopes her collection provides a new visual culture centered around Black innovation, beauty, and community.
“Airitam’s project speaks to photography’s powerful role in visual culture and its ability to examine representation within the arts critically,” said Rebecca Senf, the Center’s Chief Curator. “The Center is honored to share this Tucson-based artist’s work with our communities and to celebrate this significant project.”