Isabella Huffington, artist, Yale graduate and daughter of Arianna, takes us through her visionary creative process.
What inspired you to get into art? Was it something you’ve always wanted to do?
I always did art when I was young, but it was more as a hobby. I did more classical things like figure drawing, and I was never that into it. Then I remember in a figure drawing class I started working this modern background and I thought, this is actually enjoyable. So I started focusing on that more and it instantly captured me. After that I started working with Sharpies. I just had them around. I don’t think I would have gone and chosen Sharpies, but the medium works.
I love the Sharpie pieces that look like jellyfish. What are they meant to be?
They’re flowers, but they could be umbrellas or anything. I like the different interpretations. I just started doing three-dimensional flowers, which has been a lot of fun.
Other than nature, what objects inspire you to create your art?
I really like the idea of collapsing the boundary between fine art and everyday objects. Even Orbit gum wrappers – I just think they have the coolest pattern, and so do tissue boxes. We put so much effort in making these beautiful pieces to go in museums, but people generally don’t put in the same amount of effort for the things we see day-to-day. In Japan there is no boundary between the two. Even the wrapping paper there is special. So I’m interested in breaking down the boundaries between art and the everyday. One of the artists who does this, and who really inspires me, is Keith Haring. I created a piece that I based on his designs and his objects. Another artist that does this well is Yayoi Kusama. Those are the two artists I absolutely love.
What was it like studying art history at Yale and how did you find the time to work on your own art simultaneously?
It was good the first three years, but the fourth year was hard because I wasn’t an art major but an art history major, so there was a real divide between what I was studying, which I find incredibly interesting, and what I actually do and want to do. I just want to stay home and work on my art. I work in six-hour blocks, which was really hard when I had class. So I went to class, obviously, but getting myself to go was very difficult because I just wanted to work on my art. And at Yale they want people to stay on a certain track. The other side is always telling you to go into consulting or banking, which I think is unfortunate because when you don’t 100% know what you want to do, then you end up going on one of those tracks, which may or may not be right for you.
Do you know with certainty that you want to be an artist for the rest of your life?
I do, and I also want to do more decorative arts through working with companies and putting my art on objects because, again, I am really interested in collapsing that divide and making art accessible to a greater audience. I don’t think you should have to go to the museum to see beautiful things.
You helped collapse the divide between fashion and fine art with your collaboration with the fashion brand Ports. Can you tell us more about that?
That was fantastic. It was a lot of fun. My art was up in the New York store for two weeks. I had an opening show and then we had a big party, which was funny because I’m a big introvert, so at first I didn’t want to do it. But once you get there, it’s fun and it’s exciting. It’s always fun to hear other people talking about your art because they give it such better meaning than you ever could.