Studio Visits: Isabella Bur
Talk of doughnuts, divorce, and departures in a borrowed studio space
Imagine a clear strip of cellophane, taped back around to itself, forming a Möbius strip. Circumambulating its non-orientable surface are words, written in a continuous line, spelling out "eternity sucks" over and over. This is one of many small test pieces hanging elegantly from nails in Isabella Bur's modest temporary studio – otherwise the space of Austin artist John Stoney. Currently represented in Mexic-Arte Museum's 18th Young Latino Artists exhibition, "Con/Juntos," Bur is spending her last weeks in Austin before moving on to graduate school at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. The studio, with its gently vaulted ceiling and wood floors, has caused Bur to be "more careful and clean than I've ever been before, and that's not a bad thing!"
Austin Chronicle: How are you feeling about going back to school?
Isabella Bur: I feel nervous about that but excited, too. There's a great new professor who I had worked with during a residency in Chicago, and she invited me to SMU to study with her.
AC: What's it like packing up your space? Even though you're in a temporary space, are you worried about the act of moving?
IB: Yeah, all the work I'm making now is very simple to work with. I remake all the pieces almost every day. I rework through them, because they're all such simple pieces. I'm trying to get them perfect. I'm also practicing for pieces I'll be making after I move to Dallas. So every day I go get some doughnuts and come into the studio to work with the doughnuts.
AC: What are you doing with doughnuts?
IB: I just got divorced from a mathematician. I was thinking about – he's really brilliant, and a stereotypical mathematician who has hard time understanding people – so I was thinking about how we explain math to people. And I also think about how, for the last four years of my life, I've been trying to explain people to math. I love math, and I've always been good at it. So in topology, there's the torus. A mathematician would tell you to imagine a doughnut if you wanted to have an idea what a torus looks like. Tori are supposed to be theoretical figures, but I've been trying to make them real. A literal doughnut with a tri-foil knot around it. I think they look goofy, stupid, and dumb. I love them. When you read about a torus in a math book, there's something elegant about that, but in my version they're clumsy.
AC: Sounds delicious. What's it like to be working in someone else's space for the summer?
IB: Well, it would be more strange, except for the fact that Jack [Stoney] was my mentor during my undergraduate education. I'm comforted by this studio, and I feel that everything I do in here is brilliant. The vaulted space is really cool.
AC: And what's your new space in Dallas like?
IB: Well, it's rectangular – no vaulted ceiling! And there's floor to ceiling windows.
AC: Many artists I know love windows, but I also know you work with video quite a bit, so are windows a concern for you?
IB: No, I like to project in almost full light. I don't like the dark-room projection, especially because I work with projecting on top of objects. I don't like when you leave your body to watch a video, I want you still in the space and with the objects, instead of watching this theoretical plane. The light helps me edit video, especially in terms of adjusting the contrast of the image. My videos would look really ugly in the dark!
Check out our full tour of Isabella's studio here.
Isabella Bur's work appears in "YLA 18: Con/Juntos" through Sept. 8 at Mexic-Arte Museum, 419 Congress. More of her art may also be seen at www.isabellaburden.com.