New Delhi-based artist Bharti Kher has exhibited her mixed-media works of the world all over the world. Now, her installation "Not All Who Wander Are Lost" has dressed up the new wing façade of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. It maps movement across Europe, the Middle East and Africa with bindis, the dot that many Indian women wear to represent the third eye—in Hinduism, the center of wisdom. 

WGBH: What were you thinking about when conceptualizing and designing the installation? 

BHARTI KHER: I was thinking about Isabella Stewart Gardner and her journeys and notebooks that she kept during her years at sea and that time of discovery and learning, new places, conquest, power and foreignness. Of how people encountered each others strangeness, shared ideas and how maps became two-dimensional dreamscapes for how we wanted to see the world we lived in. I wanted to communicate the ideas of movement as people on this planet, both physically and conceptually; and what clearer metaphor than a map.

WGBH: The title of the installation is a line from J.R.R. Tolkien's poem "All That Is Gold Does Not Glitter." How, if at all, does the poem play into your work?

KHER: Nothing in my work is as it seems …ever !

WGBH: Why pair “The Larousse International Political and Economical Atlas” with bindis? 

KHER: I have always loved the idea that that a map takes the armchair traveller on a journey like a book. You literally hold the world in your hands. This edition by Larousse is interesting because his comments throughout the book pay attention to shifting hegemonies and how industry and money shape power. It seemed particularly relevant to use the bindis to both reveal and obscure the "truths" of the maps. To enliven the surface and subsume meaning. Maps are both textual and image strong. You read them in a unique way that sends the mind to reference in all directions and narratives. 

WGBH: How do you successfully convey a message through public art?

KHER: The image has to resonate with people. Never underestimate their intelligence so that you don’t challenge them to engage with their own politics and views. Then be prepared to answer their questions.

WGBH: Is there something about the map that complements the temporary nature of the installation?

KHER: The Gardner is a very special museum firstly, and I know that, at the planning stage of the new building, they wanted to be able to use the outside of the building to connect with the inside by use of image or artist interventions. I think this work invites people to see how history can reveal itself to be a powerful marker of memory and the extraordinary journey of mankind to excel and grow and learn. The map also puts it all into perspective. We are sitting on a little ball spinning in an infinite universe of which we know still very little. Yet, people, books, art, museums make us remember why that little ball is also very special. Everything at some level is temporary, and that’s the magic, that you experience something that perhaps you may never know again.

See Bharti Kher's "Not All Who Wander Are Lost" at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum through January 2016.