We sit down with artist Isabelle Rizo to discuss her inspiration, process, and the depth of meaning behind her work.
Tell us about your artist background; what drew you to the arts: I was always creating when I was little – my earliest memory was this installation with paper cranes, color, paper clips and string in the attic of our house in Chicago. It was a solitary practice, very tactile. After going to school I was still curious about art, more-so now writing and English since it was not my first language. I was very curious about the formation of identity – flags, symbols, ideas, philosophies, nationalism. Being a political refugee – not fully Romanian but not fully American, I was in this constant space of in-between. Art became my outlet to expression, first it was through photography, then film, then zines, and then finally the integration of all of those things – singularity storytelling. Some of my favorite artists are integrators – Jason Silva is a performance philosopher, Marina Abramovic is a consciousness artist, and Dan Perjovschi is an activist artist. They all bring with them the in-between, concepts, philosophy, and shifting the viewer’s perspective of reality.
What current projects or upcoming exhibits are currently in the works? I just wrapped my first group international exhibition – “She Spoke” at Ex Post Gallery in Prague – which was bittersweet because I started sending my art through the post office so coming to do a show at an ex-post office was so beautiful. Upon returning I curated the first SuperNova Experience – an evening of storytellers sharing their becoming – the dark, the funny, the powerful – all various archetypal women in their full self-expression. I have a few shows in mind for the new year as well as salon gatherings in the works…
What is your typical medium for art? Why are you drawn to this in particular? Pen, paper, and colored pencil. When I was traveling for work I hopped from Berlin, to Paris, to lots of time on planes and trains. This was the most mobile art material. The next was photography – I would take my camera with me and film – mostly document my thoughts, insights, and profound moments during travel. I created a collection of these on my instagram and also in my book, Singularity Storytelling: The Art of Noticing in The Digital Age.
Where do you draw your greatest inspiration for the work you produce? Present moment. Stillness. Processing trauma. Identity formation. Rituals. From hearing the church bells of the Sacre Couer in Paris in the morning, to stepping into the incense laden orthodox churches of Romania, to sitting in meditation in my studio… those moments of the space in between, the transcendent. I am trying to capture those feelings that are so fleeting but so powerful. It’s bittersweet really, I am trying to hold on to moments of emotion so that my artwork and paintings can remind me again of that emotion, feeling, transcendent beingness. I hope that makes sense – it’s so difficult to put into the words the transcendent. It’s very personal and mystical for me. I hope that the viewers feel that.
What kind of healing do you find through art? Why, in your option, do you feel art is a form of therapy in its ability to help us to see and express ourselves more fully? So much healing is done through art! I see that within myself, but also within my social practice as a teacher and consultant. Using form, color, shape, light, and these things that are ephemeral sometimes are more profound than words. Especially for trauma survivors that I work with. Art, I think, is a transcendent form of communication and it opens a doorway into feeling things we would rather avoid than sit with. This is why my main body of work is titled 21 Aspects of Self – we are all complex individuals, let’s look at all of those aspects of ourselves.
What is the message, or the story, you’re telling with you work? Self – autonomy within community. It’s more of a question that I propose to everyone. Is it possible? Can we coexist yet also remain true to ourselves and our own deep desires and needs. Coming from a post-communist background to a capitalist one. Sitting with being safe in my femininity versus always reacting in a masculine fashion. Understanding dialectic thinking – imagine yourself and myself and each individual complexly.