Soul Windows

An excerpt: By Rick Koster Day staff writer July 5th 2016

On Thursday
, “WE ARE – A Nation of Immigrants” opens with a ceremony, installation reveal and various cultural events at the Garde Arts Center and at The Atrium on State Street. The works consist primarily on extreme close-ups of the eyes of subjects who represent a wide array of ethnicities. With this motif, Standart says, he hopes to strip away external details that otherwise inspire preconceptions.

“The idea had been rolling around in my head about immigrants and the American way of life,” Standart says. “A lot of us take things like the Constitution and freedoms for granted, but most immigrants, many of whom sacrificed so much to get here, really cherish and value those freedoms. But, while I wanted to get those issues to the fore, I also wanted people to explore on their own what those people have gone through.

“I didn’t want to tell their whole individual stories in the photographs, and it occurred to me to not show the whole face of the subject. I wanted to invite a dialogue between the viewer and the subject, and the eyes seemed a perfect way to do that. You get the difference- whether they’re Asian or African or Hispanic or… There’s no doubt of what I sometimes call ‘otherness.’ But you’re not getting the whole story, just a bit of it. You have to work for the rest.”

As part of the process, Standart ventured into cultural communities he didn’t know anything about. He describes the local Islamic community and getting to know folks who worship at the mosque in Groton. “I totally enjoyed those experiences,” he says. “Because of the political climate and the anxiety people are feeling, I thought it was important to include that group and break down those barriers.”

The concept begs the question: As he went through the project, did Standart come to believe the proverb that “the eyes are windows to the soul?” “I found they are windows to the soul, and that’s what I was hoping for. I want viewers to stare at these eyes face-to-face and have a sort of conversation and examine what’s in their own souls,” Standart says. “Honestly, I don’t know how far people will carry this, but I hope we’ve created an invitation for people to want to learn more and hopefully learn that people from another culture don’t need to remain a great mystery.”

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