The Griffin Museum of Photography is thrilled to host The Golden Age in the Sanborn House during our summer renovation. Sanborn House’s hours are Tuesday – Thursday from 11am-3pm, and Friday and Saturday by appointment.
The Golden Age was created in 2017 to address the invisibility and omission of Black voices from the annals of art history and the revisions of American history. I am driven by a desire to confront the stories and histories of Black people that have been glaringly omitted from Western Art History. Black history has long been held hostage by whiteness, resulting in a predominantly subjugated portrayal of Black individuals throughout art history. This perpetuates the false narrative that Blackness has always been synonymous with servitude. It is this great lie that I feel compelled to address in my work.
Weary of witnessing the mistreatment of Black people, I needed to see a more truthful version of ourselves represented in a way that balanced out the monotonous, negative stereotypes we are subjected to in the media. This made me pause to try and recall a time in our collective history where Black people had fair and balanced visual representation. This historical meandering took me to The Harlem Renaissance which stands as our age of enlightenment and a great time of Black innovation, creativity, and cultural significance. Born out of the Great Migration and a response to escaping the Jim Crow south, the Harlem Renaissance parallels the Dutch Renaissance that emerged in Haarlem, Netherlands during the Eighty Years’ War. Both periods ushered in the beginnings of modernity and a hope for a more progressive society.
Through The Golden Age, I strive to reclaim the narrative, challenge the existing power structures, and shed light on the richness of Black culture. By intertwining historical and contemporary elements, I hope to foster a greater understanding and appreciation for the contributions of Black people throughout history. This project is not just a reflection of my personal journey but also an invitation to reevaluate the stories we tell and the narratives we choose to perpetuate.
Alanna Airitam is a photographer whose work transcends traditional boundaries, incorporating elements of other materials such as metal, resin, varnish, and gold leaf into her captivating compositions. With a focus on lighting, staging, and processes referencing particular eras in art history, her portraits and still-lifes often takes on a painterly quality that invites viewers to explore hidden histories and stories that have led to a lack of fair and honest representation of Black Americans. Influenced by the power and beauty of Black people, the strength and creativity of women, and the dream of a world where individuals are free to shape their own lives without interference, Airitam finds inspiration in the syncopation of jazz and transportive nature of music, the art of storytelling, and the endless possibility of the human spirit. Her work also draws from the colors, lighting, and scale of 17th-century Renaissance paintings, as well as the legacy of Black studio photographers from the 19th century.
Airitam’s work has garnered recognition and acclaim, with exhibitions at esteemed institutions such as the Center for Creative Photography, the New Orleans Museum of Art, and the Rhode Island School of Design Museum. She has also showcased her art at prominent art fairs, while her work has been collected by institutions and individuals and displayed in galleries across the