Painter Ireland Wisdom’s life and art both merge a love of history with an immersion in the new and now. Growing up in a Los Angeles scene anchored by an eclectic community of artists, poets, and the famous free-thinkers of Altadena’s Zorthian Ranch, she has continued to explore this intentional family both at the ranch and in her Historic Core studio. But her training as an artist happened in an even deeper historical core — the Renaissance-steeped academies of Florence, Italy where she learned a classical technique and a Romantic language of symbolism, dress, and pose.
Atop this art historical foundation for her life-size portraits — which are, crucially, executed entirely in oil paint and from live models (even when it means carrying a motorcycle up three flights to the studio) — she creates a rich pageant of modern day bohemia. These are interesting characters, people she loves and who are up for anything, and the results channel haute tradition but give us unrepentant, unconventional models radiating individuality, making warm but insistent eye contact with the viewer, and surrounded by offbeat props carefully chosen for narrative value — the strong national portraits of today, the art history of tomorrow.
L.A. WEEKLY: What is your short answer to people who ask what your work is about?
IRELAND WISDOM: Personally, my work is about connection. The connection between painter and model, connection to our roots, to a new mythology, between light and shadow, and of course between painting and the viewer. Painting is an act of reconnecting to my personal history. I’m Italian American and I studied the craft in Italy. My father is a painter also, and several generations back we are related to Degas.
Did you go to art school? Why/Why not?
I studied painting and sculpture in Florence at the Florence Academy of Art for three years. Among many other techniques, we were taught a method called Sight-Size. It is a method that Leonardo da Vinci used in the 15th century. In essence, I learned how to translate in paint the way light falls on a subject. As far as why, I’ve known for a long time that I wanted to paint, and this atelier to study the technique of painting seemed like a great bet and it really turned out to be just that!
Why do you live and work in L.A., and not elsewhere?
I was born and raised here in Los Angeles. The ocean, the desert, and the city are all such big parts of me. My studio is in downtown L.A., but I host figure drawing workshops in the Los Angeles Forest at the Zorthian Ranch, carrying on the mission of its late founder Jiryar Zorthian, a masterful draftsman, muralist, and painter.
When is/was your current/most recent/next show or project?
VERY SOON! Best of Bone and Blood, opens October 22nd at Carlye Packer. It is my first solo show in Los Angeles!
What artist living or dead would you most like to show or work with?
Artemisia Gentileschi or Diego Velázquez — and it would have to be in the Prado! I am a lover of the history of painting. If I’m not painting, I’m looking at pictures of paintings created by long dead artists.
Do you listen to music while you work? If so, what?
Yes I often do. Currently I can’t stop listening to two albums: Un Verano Sin Ti by Bad Bunny, and Love, Damini by Burna Boy!
Web and socials, please!
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