Isabel Reardon

Radical Empathy

Major: Illustration BFA


Medium: Multiple Media

Faculty: Beau Rhee and Elisha Wagman

Prompt: To shift means to move from one place, or one thing, to another. From one place to another, from one set of ideas to another, from one story to another. What are your stories of shifting? How do these shifts come to pass? How do we talk about them through our work?

Integrative Studio

Integrative Seminar

In Radical Empathy, I wanted to create a product to bridge the gap between different realities. I drew inspiration from experiences I had while working at a refugee camp in Athens, Greece. Profits from my perfume go to the refugee crisis.

I wanted the perfume to evoke feelings of familiarity and the unknown. The top and middle notes, such as cinnamon, star anise, cardamom, and nutmeg, come from chai and rice pudding served by generous residents. Rose comes from my friend’s famous sharbat, and honey represents the sweetness from friendships and relationships forged—and all the baklava I ate along the way. I also added pepper in response to traumatic stories I heard and situations I found myself in.

Cedar-wood is the bottom note because I often spot cedar trees as I leave a meaningful experience. Its earthy smell seems full of age and wisdom, like they’ve lived forever and connect us all. The bottom note, I’ve read, lingers the longest.

I created my magazine spread with three colors in mind. Blue for water and sky, which can connect us and separate us; rose for love; and gold for honey, spices, and the sun.

Following this theme in my display, I used circles to evoke the shape of the earth and painted my golden logo over a blue surface. Because the scent is called “extrait du monde”, I wanted it to look like a shell, implying that the perfume, like a pearl, is an extract of the world. I showered the display in rose buds to give my audience a hint of the scent.

Ultimately, empathy is about traveling to another person. We live in separate worlds, and I’ve been lucky enough to travel between them. Radical Empathy gives others the opportunity to do the same.