Featured at this Thursday’s art walk at Front Seat in the Oddfellows Building, artist Isobelle Ouzman will show her latest collection, a series of hypnotizing illustrations set in nature. Her drawings achieve mobility, pulling the viewer’s eyes towards a bright center amidst tangled branches and swaying stems.
The 21-year-old British transplant recently responded to a call for art sent out by Ghost Gallery owner Laurie Kearney. Kearney was looking for art that was both “socially conscious and nature-inspired,” then came across Ouzman’s submission. Not only did Ouzman focus on nature in her drawings, she was also adamant about using recycled or re-purposed materials.
“Rather than have them go through the landfill, I figure I’ll use them to do what I love,” Ouzman said of the matierials that she uses.
Ouzman grew up in Leeds, England, and moved to the United States in 2004 to study commercial design at a technical school in Massachusetts. She came to Washington State in 2007 to attend Tacoma School of the Arts, where she studied painting and illustration. When asked why she preferred the pen to the paintbrush, she said, “I’m more into the detail. Every line that I draw is so significant to the drawing as a whole.”
Following high school, Ouzman was accepted into two art schools in Portland, but she declined going to college because of the hefty amount of zeros on the price tag. Instead, Ouzman worked full-time and spent all of her spare time on her art.
In addition to her illustrations on paper, Ouzman is working on several “altered books.” Having respect for the written word, she wants to make a statement about the detrimental decline of reading tangible books in our technology-driven society. Many of the books that she uses are sappy romance novels that come from her friends who no longer want them. Using pens and a lot of glue, she creates a multitude of layers, giving the books a third dimension. They open to natural scenes filled with flowers, trees, ferns and often an animal, such as a hummingbird or an owl. She wants to use these books to prove to our screen-dead minds that there is value in reading a real book.
One aspect of art that Ouzman finds particularly intriguing is the dichotomous relationships between life and death, hope and struggle.
Pointing to her depiction of this dichotomy in her art, she said, “I use a lot of the weeds and the vines and the foliage – a lot of strangling things. I see the owl as the thing that’s coming to the rescue. I guess I don’t know how to explain it…” She trailed off. “I leave it up to the viewer to interpret what they see.”
In each of her illustrations, she plays with light and dark, creating an eerie, but beautiful feeling. Despite the darkness in her drawings, the living components – the plants and animals – all gravitate towards a bright light that borders the supernatural.
Ouzman’s illustrations and her innovative altered books stood out to Kearney for this upcoming art walk. “Her art has a lot of depth and care taken to everything. I love that attention to detail.”
Kearney spent the last few days gearing up for Thursday, which marks the four-year anniversary of Ghost Gallery at its current location. Days before the event, her hands were in the dirt, tidying up the small garden in front of the gallery. Kearney pointed to the freshly painted fence just in time for Thursday’s anniversary party, which she is hosting at the gallery, alongside the opening of the Artbridge Fellows’ exhibition by Pratt Fine Arts. Kearney explained that one of her colleagues will be representing Ghost Gallery at Front Seat, a “tech-for-good” company on the fourth floor of the Oddfellow Building, where Ouzman will be this Thursday. It is the first time that her art will be featured on Capitol Hill and she is thrilled.
To see more of Ouzman’s art, visit http://isobelleouzman.com/.