Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, one of the first American television programs to be broadcast in Russia was Santa Barbara (1984–93). Watching from her childhood home in Moscow with her family, Diana Markosian saw the soap opera as a window into a world of fantasy, escape, and the American Dream. Santa Barbara, California, became a mythical place that loomed large in the family imagination, and eventually, through her mother’s sacrifices, it became their home. 

In her version of Santa Barbara, Markosian reconstructs and reexamines both the Russia and the United States of her childhood, tracing her family’s real-life move as their dream became reality. An extension of her documentary practice, the project allows Markosian to relive her childhood on her own terms, inviting us to step into her family’s collective memory, using archival family materials, staged images, and a scripted film.  

Markosian grants access to her family’s story and also to her process. The tension between performance and reality is further complicated by her willingness to pull back the curtain and expose her tools. As it moves from Moscow to the United States, Santa Barbara tests and challenges the limits of truth, fiction, documentary, and memory.  

Exhibitions Highlights

Click here to view select images from the exhibition

Publication and Programming

A companion book, the photographer’s debut monograph, Diana Markosian: Santa Barbara (Aperture, November 2020), features more than 100 images woven together with the script co-written by Markosian and Lynda Myles.

On September 26, 2021, 2 PM ET, ICP will host an in-person public program, Constructed Reality: Diana Markosian on Santa Barbara, featuring Markosian in conversation with the scriptwriter Lynda Myles and actors from the project. ICP will host additional public programs related to the exhibition throughout the fall, to be announced.

About the Artist

Diana Markosian (b. 1989) takes an intimate approach to her photography and video storytelling, in work that is both conceptual and documentary. Her projects have taken her to some of the remotest corners of the world, and have been featured in National Geographic MagazineThe New Yorker, and The New York Times. She holds a M.S. degree from Columbia University in New York. Her work is represented by Galerie Les Filles du Calvaire in Paris, France, and Rose Gallery in Los Angeles, California.

Exhibition Access

Fall exhibition hours are Wednesday through Monday, 11 AM to 7 PM, and until 9 PM on Thursdays. Admission: Adults $16; Seniors (62 and Over), Students (with Valid ID), Military, Visitors with Disabilities $12 (caregivers are free); SNAP/EBT card holders $3; ICP members, ICP students, and all visitors 16 years old and under are free.

Admission to ICP is by timed ticketed entry only to ensure limited capacity and other safety standards are met. Tickets can be reserved online at Visitors are asked to arrive during the 30-minute window of your timed ticket to help us ensure a safe flow in the lobby. For more information about how we are welcoming you back safely, read our updated Visitor Information and Accessibility guidelines and policies.


A lady on the phone at night. Diana Markosian, Call to America, 2019. © Diana Markosian
A cactus outside. Diana Markosian, Eli's Home, 2019. © Diana Markosian
Three kids standing in the dessert. Diana Markosian, The Arrival, 2019. © Diana Markosian
A girl sitting in the passenger seat of a car. Diana Markosian, A New Life, 2019. © Diana Markosian
A family picture taken outside. Diana Markosian, Road Trip to Palm Springs, 2019. © Diana Markosian
A woman outside with trees on each side. Diana Markosian, First Job in America, 2019. © Diana Markosian
A woman laying in bed. Diana Markosian, Mom Alone, 2019. © Diana Markosian

Special Thanks

Exhibitions at ICP are supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.

Diana Markosian: Santa Barbara has been made possible through the generous support of an Anonymous Donor.