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Conversations with Young Artists: [3] Isabella Christilles, PC ’19

In this series, Providence College Graduating Senior and Studio Art Major, Jessica Rogers interviews each of her fellow graduates on the occasion of their thesis exhibitions.

What is the significance behind your choice of medium, papier maché?

I learned how to use papier maché at a young age when my mom taught me how to make piñatas (which were essentially giant sculptures in themselves.)I’ve always loved using this material and  further developed techniques with this medium throughout my time in college. From a practical standpoint, it’s incredibly convenient; I can use any type of paper (although recycled newsprint is usually best), and the paste is easy to make. On a personal level, I find the process of layering strips of paper to be somewhat therapeutic. There’s something intriguing that happens when you work in the studio and see a form come into being. I also take pleasure in knowing what the form is made from; I feel like sometimes I trick people. It’s a material that many people think of as “cheap” or “shoddy” on its own, but it all of a sudden turns into something extravagant and worth-while when it transforms.

What was the most rewarding part of creating your thesis exhibition from concept development to installation?

Watching something transform from simply an idea into something tangible is a rewarding process in itself. I think for me, finally seeing my work installed in a gallery after so much (literally) hard work, blood, sweat and tears made everything seem worthwhile. Seeing the work in the space it was intended and watching people’s reactions to it reminded me why I do all of this, why I have to make art.

How did you decide what phrases and questions to surround your table with? Were you inspired by experiences and conversations in your own life?

To some extent, I was inspired by conversations in my own life, this is really how the idea originated. However, I wanted the final product to be relatable to as many people as possible, so using my own thoughts or phrases exclusively would not have been as effective. Instead I decided to do an informal poll asking several people whom I knew (some better than others) to write down two lists. The first list contained phrases each person felt they used often within a “day-to-day” conversation. For the second list, I asked them to write out thoughts they would often have during these “day-to-day” conversations, that they would not typically express out loud. The phrases on the walls came from this second list of collected “unspoken thoughts.”

Is there any artist or movement you were influenced by in creating The Ordained Time?

I take a lot of my inspiration from theatre, particularly set and costume design. For The Ordained Time, I looked more closely at Bauhaus theatre. I always found Bauhaus design to have this very strange, animated, surreal feel to it. I wanted to have a similar effect in my installation.

For conceptual inspiration, I looked at Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party and Camille Henrot’s The Pale Fox installations. I wanted to evoke that sense of inviting people to a gathering, as Chicago did in her Dinner Party. Unlike Chicago, I did not want my setting to be too formal where the audience might have felt underdressed. As I’ve mentioned before, I wanted the scene I built to be relatable to as many people as possible. At the same time, I wanted people to think more conceptually when they interacted with the work. This is why I also looked at Camille Henrot. Her installations and films attempt to capture fairly broad, complex concepts, such as creation and curiosity. The theme she focuses on for The Pale Fox is curiosity. Although I wasn’t attempting to capture the same themes Henrot often works with, I looked to her for inspiration on how one might attempt to encompass such broad themes.


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