In 2017 I was part of a restaurant training team that opened a concept in downtown Boston, MA. I had been living in Vegas for 7 years. When I got off of the plane after traveling all day I had to go into the restaurant and meet my team that night by 5pm. As I was waiting for my uber it started to torrential downpour. I had not seen rain in almost a year. I couldn’t even understand what was happening.
When I got to the hotel I had like 15 minutes to fix my hair and face, get dressed and get to the restaurant. It was located in the prudential building across the street from the hotel. I was so nervous the map told me to walk around the entire prudential building in the pouring rain to get in and that is what I did.
Despite the bumpy start, Boston is by far my favorite city I have ever visited. That first night we went out after work and right on the Boston Marathon finish line sitting perfectly was a fist-sized lobster roll, perfectly intact. I learned how to handle a giant bar two blocks from Fenway during a Red Sox/ Yankees series (holy shit.) Everyone dresses to the 9’s and drinks espresso martinis. The Bikram studio was killer and I even got to see Harvard because we had to go across town to a Hobby Lobby.
Anyway. Besides dinner at Prezza in the North End is the best meal I’ve ever had and cheap Italian being prepared correctly (a pound of melted mozzarella on my spaghetti) - it just felt like home to me. Everyone told me to go to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum on my one day off. I had no idea who she was or what that was.
The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is an art museum in Boston, Massachusetts, which houses significant examples of European, Asian, and American art. Its collection includes paintings, sculptures, tapestries, and decorative arts. It was founded by Isabella Stewart Gardner, whose will called for her art collection to be permanently exhibited "for the education and enjoyment of the public forever".
Working in a new restaurant in Boston was preparing me to open one in San Diego. I hadn’t done the 12 hour days six days a week EVER. This was when it was still very exciting and I was trying to prove myself. So for the most part in Boston, all I saw was the inside of the restaurant. However - that one day - even though I was so tired I could barely move - I went to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
And for me - it was the courtyard that has always stayed with me. I hadn’t realized being in the restaurant working for so many days and hours that I hadn’t noticed anything green or sunlight in a week. I had walked into this giant old Victorian mansion thinking it would be dark and uncomfortable and I was met with a courtyard of exotic plants and beaming gold sun.
The other portrait that I loved was Isabella Steward Gardner herself, titled Isabella Steward Gardner in Venice 1894, painted by Anders Zorn. She is young, and smiling in a flowy white dress, balancing her hands on the walls playfully.
I really really went to a dark place for a few years when I was working in a restaurant so much I didn’t see plants or sunlight. But every once in a while I would close my eyes and pretend I was walking into Isabella's Courtyard - seeing the plants and feeling the gold sun. I guess that is what taught me that my freedom is in the light that my art creates. For as roundabout as it all came out. This painting is a reminder of that lesson.