March 2019 Artist in Residence: Isabelle Frances McGuire

Bio art by Isabelle Frances McGuire

Bio art by Isabelle Frances McGuire


LATITUDE is excited to welcome Isabelle Frances McGuire as its March Artist In Residence!

Portrait of the artist.

Portrait of the artist.

Isabelle Frances McGuire was born in Austin, Texas. They currently live and work out of Chicago, Illinois and graduated with a BFA from School of the Art Institute of Chicago. They recently completed a residency at Alternative Worksite, founded by Linda Burnham and supported by the Robert Overby Estate. Past solo exhibitions include, I’m a Cliché, Prairie, Chicago (2017). Selected group exhibitions include: At the End of the Game You Will Be Forgotten, Alyssa Davis Gallery, New York City (2018); Flat Earth Film Festival, Seyðisförður, Iceland (2018); Let Me Be an Object that Screams, Gallery 400, Chicago (2017)

McGuire’s Residency at LATITUDE is proudly supported by MOAB Paper.

Q&A of Isabelle Frances McGuire, interviewed by Noëlle Pouzar

Bio art by Isabelle Frances McGuire

Bio art by Isabelle Frances McGuire

You’ve mentioned creating a zine about the history of women artists in bio art. What adversities do you see women artists experiencing in this field?

My goals in making that zine would be to broaden the definition of bio art. One of the f***ed up things about bio art as a genre is that in most cases for a piece to be classified as bio art, it must tools that comes from a laboratory. Equipment for that kind of work is outrageously expensive, and can only be worked with the knowledge that is equally expensive to obtain in education. In my opinion, the term bio art should more broadly relate to the conceptual ideas of biotechnology and addressing concepts of the human/gender instead of directly needing to use materials that require an intense science background.

Everyone has access to biological material like bacteria, cells, and tissue and what is defined as science should never be contained to universities. Once you open up that idea and put fewer limitations on what it means to be making bio art, I think it lets other people put themselves into new contexts and new ways of thinking about making art. I wanted to do the same thing with the term women and broaden the definition, so more people feel comfortable identifying with individuals in this history. My intention is that women would mean more of the performance of femininity instead of directly relating to the body. It would include trans women, non-trans women and non-conforming people who perform she when they feel like it. Being able to look at a history book and see someone that resembles you or is interested in the same ideas as you is so important; It’s a really quick way to let people confidently participate in a conversation.

Another reason I wanted to make something like this was so that I could find people who were interested in similar things to me and I could form relationships with them. :)

The manipulation of materials feels essential to your practice. Walk us through your process of choosing items like dead dough, plastic, and sugar to craft your pieces.

All of my materials are from recipes I’ve found online. I’m interested in using food materials that have been extensively altered by human hands and ideas. I really like that relationship. It directly references the blurred border between the human and the world and kind of annihilates that imaginary line. I use products that are embedded with histories of ideas and then meant to be consumed and put back into a body.

An example of this is isomalt sugar. It is a genetically engineered beet sugar explicitly created to not spike insulin in the body. It is one of those "guilt free" sweetness. It interesting though, that one of the byproducts of its genetic makeup is that it became extremely easy to sculpt and mold. And because of that, it was adopted by the food craft community, and now there are a bunch of craft tutorials, youtube videos, and forums on how to use isomalt. The knowledge of how to use this material became a part of the crafts world collective consciousness online. Accessible information is crucial to how most of my pieces are made and materials are chosen.

How do you approach the relationship between writing and photography in your work?

Stories, especially science fiction, have had a significant impact on my work. Recently, I have been writing instructional plays that are acted out with the intention of making images. These plays create two separate pieces: one piece is the performance that takes place, the other is the images that come out of it. The pictures I make are fiction, or there is fiction influencing the way I approach them.

Images from the play H+ by Isabelle Frances McGuire

Images from the play H+ by Isabelle Frances McGuire

What are you working on during your residency at LATITUDE?

I’m going to be working on printing images from a play that I wrote titled H+, a series of shrinky dink images, and releasing a book of recipes that I use to make art.

As a Chicago-based artist, what places do you recommend people go check out?

I spend a lot of time at the library so I would recommend the Ryerson & Burnham Libraries, the Harold Washington, and the Flaxman. For looking at art, I go the Renaissance Society, Prairie, and Mickey. All fun. Other recommendations are the Garfield Park Conservatory, PopKTV for karaoke because they have Bjork, EK Housewares and Gifts in Chinatown. QXY for dumplings, Tank Noodle for pho, and Gene and Judes for hot dogs.

What’s in your Netflix queue right now?

Right now I’m watching Fooly Cooly but its on Adult Swim not netflix.

View more of Isabelle’s work.

AIR 2019Colleen Keihm