February 15, 2023
Script by Gallery & Curatorial Fellow Calla Savelson
This piece is called A Tale as Old as Time (Reflejo), and sits within what used to be a mirror held up by a brass stand. The gold figurine in the center of the piece is an image of a Pre-Columbian gold artifact. Pre-Columbian refers to the era before Columbus sailed to the Americas, when Central and South America were inhabited by the thriving civilizations of the Aztec, Inca, and Maya. Many artifacts containing pre-columbian gold resided in precious burial sites, as a tribute to those buried there. Like many colonized areas of the world, these sites were looted by European explorers, destroying and stealing artifacts, and taking them for their own. Today, many of these pieces live in Western Museums, behind glass, as a tool to tell a false story. Paola explains that these pieces have become signifiers of cultures which have been uprooted and now don’t reside in their rightful places. They have become a symbol of histories that are not told correctly or understood truthfully.
Looking on the left hand side, you’ll see an image of a soldier wearing a green uniform and shooting a wave of deadly, red bullets. This image appears in a couple of Paola’s works and represents the United States involvement in Colombian affairs. The War on Drugs was a brutal display of the United States’ power and ruthlessness in the name of doing something good. This seems to be the only story about Columbia that popular culture is interested in telling – one that focuses on the very brief time period of the 80s and 90s, highlighting violence, drugs, and death. Why is this the narrative that we focus on? Why are we not interested in the rich and beautiful history of Colombia outside of the cartels, drugs and violence that were fueled by US involvement?
A Tale as Old as Time (Reflejo), the title of this piece, makes Paola think of Disney, and the fact that it was previously a mirror reminds Paola of Snow White, though the work is not at all in a Disney style. The Spanish word reflejo, translates to reflection in English. In her work, Paola thinks a lot about portals and reflections, often photographing windows, doors, and mirrors. What are the stories we hold on to, and tell? What are the histories that hold power? What from our societies gets archived and remembered? This piece allows a portal to a history that is mistold over and over again and urges us to reflect on what we have been told, what we pay attention to, and how we can fight these narratives to uncover the real story.