Isabella Huffington on The Tappan Collective

Isabella Huffington on The Tappan Collective

Isabella Huffington is an artist living and working in New York. She is passionate about improving arts accessibility, making fine art less intimidating and more readily available for everyone. Huffington draws inspiration from materials she is surrounded by as well as her everyday life. She received a BFA in art history from Yale.

Artist whose career you covet? 

Takashi Murakami. I love how he seamlessly moves from fine art, to commercial art, and back again.

Most influential character in American history in the past 10 years? 

Roger Ailes. I think he's largely responsible for polarizing America and creating a climate of fear and anxiety, some justified and some not, where a Trump-like figure could thrive.

When do you make your best work?

Early in the morning and late at night. The afternoons are a slog.

Is art making therapeutic for you?

Completely. It feels really meditative. The way I wish proper meditation felt.

What are you most proud of? 

Learning that what's right for other people may not be right for you and that it may be harder in the short term to forge your own path but you'll be grateful for it in the long term.

What do you see yourself doing in 5 years?

I'm really interested in the intersection between art and design. I want to continue collaborating with designers and focus on making wearable art and, most important, on making fine art more accessible.

If you could travel anywhere to create for a while, where would you go?

Colorado. I don't think there's anything more beautiful than the Rocky Mountains. It's one of the few places that is extraordinary in every season.

What are your other hobbies?

I'm completely obsessed with politics. I listen to political podcasts all day. So in the current climate, I end every day feeling incredibly depressed and hopeless. It's a downward spiral.

If you could have a drink with one artist, who would it be?

Yayoi Kusama.

What influences you?

Everyday materials and patterns. I love looking at wallpaper, carpets, and fabrics. There are so many incredible colors and textures all around us. It's just hard to pause and notice them all.

What motivates you?

I love watching a piece evolve. I love creating something out of nothing. And I love, at the end of every day, being able to look down and see what I've done.

What’s your studio philosophy?

In theory, put my phone on airplane mode. In reality, there are a lot of unnecessary Buzzfeed quizzes each day. And when you find out that your Harry Potter house is Hufflepuff it really dampens your sense of self.

How many hours do you try and work in the studio per week?

Usually 40 hours. I'm the least spontaneous person I know. I need a schedule otherwise I go crazy. I think Dolly Parton's song "9 to 5" also had way too big of an impact on me.

Silence or sound while creating? If sound, what? 

Definitely sound. Dystopian sci-fi audio books, country music, political podcasts, the occasional teen novel. Clearly, I like to keep it very high brow.

Tools or mediums you’re dying to experiment with?

3-D printing, mannequins, rhinestones.

What’s next?

I have a few collaborations in the works. It's exciting, when you're used to working on your own, to experiment with other people.

What’s the first thing you do when you begin formulating an idea for a piece?

I sketch the idea. Then I find the images I want to use. I have a notebook full of ideas. I love the satisfaction of crossing out a sketch once I've completed the piece.

What work took you the longest to complete?

Two months. It was a painting made up of tiny dots. And by the second week I was totally and utterly bored. My life would be much better if I believed in sunk costs.

Best gift you’ve ever received?

A trampoline. I got it when I was nine and broke it when I was 15. But we had a good 6 year run together.

Describe your work in 3 words.

Colorful, visual Prozac.

Last gallery show you went to?

Oh dear. The last show I went to was two weeks ago and it was my own. How terribly narcissistic is that.

What's one thing you still have from your childhood?

I have a bear. His name is Roger. I accidentally throw him off the bed every night so he's not enthusiastic about sleeping with me.

Do you have a favorite quote, or a phrase you think about often? 

“There were many terrible things in my life, but most of them never happened.”-Montaigne

Have the cities you’ve lived in influenced your practice? If so, tell us a bit about that, and what elements in particular steered you in certain directions.

I grew up in LA so I've always loved colors and a kind of kitschy busyness. I feel like nothing matches in LA. You have a mediterranean house next to a colonial house next to a modern house and I absolutely love that. It makes it a really welcoming city. Anyone can fit in since nothing really does. There's also a real optimism in LA, which has imbued me with an irritating cheerfulness.

What country do you wish to visit?


What makes you nervous?

Public speaking and social events where I don't know anyone.

What makes you laugh no matter what?

John Oliver.

What's the bravest thing you've ever done?

Standing up for myself. Standing up for other people.

What is one artist living or dead you feel a great connection to? Someone whose work has inspired your own practice and what you’re creating these days?

Jim Hodges.

What’s one habit you wish you could break?

Reading comments on the internet, especially on YouTube.

Who was your favorite teacher in school?

My advisor in college. She used to wear this huge, faux-fur hat. Both were terrific and terrifying at the same time.


View limited edition prints made in conjunction with exhibition at Three Squares Studio here.