Published on July 8, 2021. Isabella Whitfield is a multidisciplinary artist based in Charlottesville, VA. Her work explores site-specificity, spatial inversions, and formal absence. Through quiet repetition and intentional placement, she questions how iterations can assert belonging.
Currently, she is a 2021 Pop-Up Resident at the Visual Arts Center of Richmond. She was a 2020-2021 Aunspaugh Fifth-Year Fellow at the University of Virginia (CLAS'20) and recently had a solo exhibition at Welcome Gallery presented by UVA Arts.
Isabella is our first featured 2021 artist in our fifth 7x7x7 Series, which asks 7 questions to 7 Charlottesville artists and is published once a week for 7 weeks. This summer's series is presented by The Seven Society and features artists affiliated with the University of Virginia.
If you had a free afternoon in Charlottesville what would you do or where would you go?
Something that involves Moge Tea, a backyard campfire, and riding my bike.
Describe your artistic work in 7 words.
Creation through removal. Performative artifacts. Inversions.
Who or what inspires your current work?
I’m interested in creating things through removal and displacement. Instead of artwork that exclusively takes up positive space, I’m exploring a subtractive kind of artistic mark-making through formalizing absence.
Consider one piece you’re working on right now. Give us a snippet of your routine—from start to finish, what goes into making it?
My creative process involves a lot of trial, error, and failure. One ongoing project that I’m working on, Hole Inversions, took me over a year to fully develop. Even now, it’s still an active project with no definitive deadline. For this project, I’ve been traveling around to site-specific places and digging identical 22-inch holes. Then, after relocating to an indoor space, I create perfect circular forms from the collected natural materials; effectively, presenting the spatial inversions of holes.
A good amount of physical labor goes into this project: biking, hiking, driving, digging, and hauling backpacks full of dirt. With this project and other recent work, I've realized that I resonate with projects that present a physical challenge.
What have you learned about yourself as a person through the experience of making art?
Most of the projects I’m actively pursuing originate from sketches/notes, dreams, and experiences from a few years ago. To create a body of work that feels resolved and conceptually cohesive, I have to let an idea sit with me for a while. In this regard, I have learned to be patient with myself whenever a project isn’t clicking, because it will usually unexpectedly work out some time in the future. I’m at my best when I work intuitively. That doesn’t mean I’m going into things unprepared, but I don’t let a preconceived plan dictate what a project will be.
What would you like to see happen in Charlottesville to better support artists in our community?
It would be great to have an organizational structure that facilitates skill-sharing workshops among local artists.
What is currently on your studio/work desk?
Lots of rice! I’m making a series of time-based life-castings through continuously laying grids from rice grains. My largest grid is about 3x3.5 feet and has a runtime of 9 hours, 55 minutes, and 29 seconds.
The opinions expressed in this interview are solely those of the artist and do not necessarily represent the policies or positions of NCAI.
Isabella's work, "together forever/forever together", is on view as a part of Kluge Ruhe's Breathe With Me: A Wandering Sculpture Trail through October 17, 2021. You can plan your visit at kluge-ruhe.org.