Insider’s View, Harvard Square
Made for Howard Gardner on the occasion of his 70th Birthday
Acrylic on canvas, 48″ x 36″
I was invited to contribute to my advisor’s Festschrift, which was organized in celebration of his many accomplishments as he reached a milestone 70th birthday. I was thinking about what I could write and found myself struggling to find the right words. That’s when I thought perhaps I could make an even more personalized contribution and tribute to my professor in my other preferred medium: paint. Since the day I met him over 12 years ago as a masters student fresh out of college, Howard has always supported and encouraged my interest in the arts. It seemed fitting to honor him through the creation of an artwork.
I thought long and hard about what I could paint that would be meaningful, and I settled on the challenge of painting Harvard Square because it has been such an important context for him over the years. He often tells the story about how he came here as a college student and never left! Harvard is a place that Howard knows well and loves; it is where he teaches, writes, and lives, and where many of his ideas are incubated. I struggled with how to capture Harvard Square from a unique point of view, one that you wouldn’t see in a postcard or a Harvard brochure. This painting was created from a photograph of Harvard Square that I captured one afternoon from the Project Zero offices at University Place. I thought it was a perfect insider’s view of this famous area.
The unusual vantage point into the Square from the 6th floor of Project Zero provided an interesting sense of hovering over the rooftops and between the buildings that appealed to me. It seemed to reflect more of the inner workings, the views that go unseen by tourists, a behind the scenes perspective. And of course, it was a perspective from one of Howard’s places of work. On the day I took the photo, the light filtered through the clouds in such a way that added a sense of wonder to the scene, even some mystery. I loved it.
During his remarks on the evening of his Festschrift celebration, Howard talked about how, in addition to being able to travel the world and learn from new friends and colleagues, when he is rooted in Cambridge, he has made it a habit to always “travel the mind.” He is constantly exploring questions and ideas as he continues to enrich his mental landscape through reading, teaching, collaborating, and learning. In my painting, I hoped to capture the idea of Harvard Square not only as a physical space but also as a place of/for the mind. I tried to convey this through the light, the color, the unusual tuning of dark and light to create a mood of contemplation.
I worked on the painting methodically for 6 months and almost daily over the last 2 months and feel it is probably my most accomplished to date. I am glad to present it to Howard on this very special occasion, to mark my deep appreciation for the opportunities he has given me during my time at Harvard. Working on my doctorate here has unexpectedly enabled me to develop my painting more seriously, and I now feel confident that it will continue to be one of my central pursuits moving forward. My experience teaching with Howard in his course on Good Work and hearing the enthusiasm of our students made me ask myself, when do I feel flow truly and consistently? And the answer was: when I am painting.
September 30, 2013
 A volume of writings by different authors presented as a tribute or memorial especially to a scholar (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/festschrift).
 Where Howard served as co-director from 1972-2000 and where he continues to base his research endeavors www.pz.harvard.edu
 Drawing from the work of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, “In flow, we feel totally involved, lost in seemingly effortless performance. Paradoxically, we feel 100 percent alive when we are so committed to the task at hand that we lose track of time, of our interests – even of our own existence…”(Gardner, Csikszentmihalyi, & Damon, 2001, Good Work: When Excellence and Ethics Meet, p.5)