Profile of the Week: Isabel Pardo

Isabel Pardo is an artist and curator based in Baltimore, MD. Isabel specializes in painting, art history and curation, creating “classical abstraction”. She redefines historic imagery in a contemporary lens. 

What inspired and motivated you to become an artist?

Not to be cheesy, but there is that Picasso quote that says “All children are born artists, the problem is to remain an artist as we grow up.” I think about this often as I think it was definitely the case with me, I had always considered myself an artist and grew up knowing that I would most likely work to do it professionally. I was very lucky to grow up in a very supportive household, there were always crafts or art making materials around, I remember my mom taking my sister and I to the Crayola Factory when we were young. But honestly I think my largest motivation was my love of learning. The fluidity of art making allows for the opportunity to continually learn, I have found that artists are some of the most well read people, simply because they are interested in the subject they are learning about. I have also always been oriented to work in museums as well because of my love of education, and love of sharing knowledge. Ultimately, constant curiosity, open imagination, and reckless optimism have led me to this path.

Allegories (2019)
Water media on paper, mixed media installation
6’ x 10’ x 2’

What materials and tools are essential within your studio or work space?

I like to call myself a maximal minimalist, which is a nice way to say that I hoard materials. I always have a plethora of materials to look at and work with. A large part of my practice is collage so there are always books and magazines around, but I also create 3D collages to accompany my paintings. In these I use whatever I find, fabrics, tiles, tubes, etc. Lately my favorite is vinyl strips. I work primarily in water media, so having watercolors and gouache is always a must, though I’m planning my next big series and will be reprising working with oil and experimenting with traditional Buon fresco techniques.

What stories or messages do you wish to tell through your creations?

I think that art making has always had a very spiritual foundation for me, and I am realizing that more and more as I continue in my practice. I have always been inspired by various mythologies and magic since I was a child, and continue to work within the language of myth. In working with established imagery from alchemy, religious texts, and art history, I ultimately want to use the known to create the unknown.

I have developed a manner of working that I call ‘classical abstraction,’ a technique to explore, re-contextualize, and redefine what historic imagery can signify in a contemporary lens. By acting as a collector of image and material I am redefining hierarchy through repetition, I question how a piece can be read and distilled into a visual language. I have a tendency to combine the real with the surreal, often using repeating or familiar imagery to play a game of telephone, peeling context and image to attach new meaning through new relationships and the passage of time. I leave the viewer to interpret and discover the language of magic and past with a modern perspective.

“Burden” (2019)
Watercolor, ink, collage, and leaf on paper
11” x 19” 

What growth have you seen within yourself and your art?

Materiality and space has become very important to me, I have said before that I am an artist with a curator’s eye. With three focuses, painting, art history, and curation, I hesitate to discern myself as just one, in my practice all inform one another immensely. I have begun to see all my painting as collage, creating my work with an end goal in mind, thinking about the display just as much as the creation, yet experimenting with material abstraction all the way. Because I am a woman of Latinx descent working with historical imagery, I am very selective with my collection of images that I use, opting for more woman centered or fantastical imagery. One of the reasons that materiality and space has become so intrinsic in my work is due to the historic connotations that each has had for women. In my decisions to create installation or collage based paintings I am also attempting to question what painting can be and what space signifies when I enter it or leave it empty. I have found the greatest personal growth in asking these questions to myself because they continue to pave the road before me, the possibility for unknown potential is always exciting once you push through the initial trepidation.

“Truth” (2019)
Watercolor, ink, collage, and leaf on paper
11” x 19” 

As a young artist, what particular goals do you have for the future?

Though the future seems a bit bleak at our present moment in the pandemic, I am hoping to be able to push my installations further, I would like to create a room wide or gallery wide collection of paintings and installations. I am currently working on some smaller gouache pieces at the moment that are acting as inspiration for a larger series I plan to begin in the fall. I also want to focus on my curatorial practice as well, curating shows and participating in collaborations. Ultimately, however, I would like to be working in a museum in some capacity while also continuing my studio practice. Being surrounded by artwork and conversation about art and culture are some of my greatest inspirations when working. When my mind is growing I can definitively say that my art will be as well. 

FRONTRUNNER online forum: @isabelpardo
Website: : www.isabelpardoart.myportfolio.com
Instagram:@isabel.pardo.art

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