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Photos from Flickr
Julien Isaacs throws some glitter and makes it rain
In the basement of a Burleith apartment, the floor of Julien Isaacs’s (SFS ’12) art studio is covered in an inch of glitter. These are the remnants of his latest work of glitter-based iconic images, from a glitter sphinx statue outside his apartment to a glitter painting of Madonna. From this explosion of sparkles, Isaacs has taken Georgetown and the D.C. art community, by storm. Divine Chaos, his exhibit at the Adams Morgan coffeehouse Tryst, is running until May 31 after a sold-out opening night on April 5.
As Isaacs puts it, Divine Chaos is “sparkly fabulousness.” Featuring 14 pieces, which the artist chose to represent the most “emblematic of American culture,” the Tryst exhibit showcases glitter-based pop images from Gaga to Obama.
As Isaacs originally designed the display to feature three times as many pieces as the space permitted, each work was specially selected to comment on our celebrity and image-obsessed society. Whitney Houston stands at the center of the exhibit, which Isaacs said was an homage to her “enormous talent and tragic, cut-short career.” Contrasting the undeniably talented Houston is an image of Kim Kardashian, who “represents the pseudo-celebrity,” Isaacs said. “The Paris Hilton-type of fame, who everyone in our society nevertheless knows.”
Meanwhile, strategically positioned images of Snooki and President Obama serve as a “foil of American culture.” The image of the popular Jersey Shore persona stands out against the iconic silhouette of Obama, which represents “an image of hope that never truly manifested.”
“It is that image of Obama that will resonate far beyond the legacy of Obama’s presidency,” Isaacs said. “And I want to capture those images as they resonate with us.”
Amongst these images, Lady Gaga and Kanye West also take center stage, along with a small glitter image of the Buddha. The Buddha, even cast in sparkles, embodies what the artist sees as a representation of the small but significant “corners of serenity in the world we live in.”
The idea and name for this concept-driven show derived from the artist’s desire to explore the preeminence of the celebrity in everyday society. “Individuality is the seed of all chaos,” he explained. “I designed and named the exhibit Divine Chaos based on this notion that celebrity causes both chaos and divinity in society.”
But beyond the deeper artistic significance of his work, it’s really all about the glitter. The medium lends the exhibit a high degree of, to borrow a term from Isaacs’ aesthetic inspiration, Kimora Lee Simmons, “fabulosity.”
“I am very much a kid of our pop culture- and celebrity-obsessed generation,” he said. And for these popular and near-divine images, Isaacs decided that the best way to depict them was “doused in light.”
It was an effort to capture the beauty of light itself that first led Isaacs to glitter as a medium. It was not until his time studying abroad in China, he says, that he realized what power this very simple element has. “Light is really the most beautiful thing,” he said. “Light defines beauty in the world.”
“For me it has been about capturing that light in my art,” he said. “Glitter does that. It is a little piece of heaven—a visual sensation, but in a way fabulously simple. All it takes is shifting one’s gaze over a work to see it sparkle, to catch the light.”
The use of a simple arts-and-crafts staple has transformed the Georgetown senior’s art into a local sensation, from his sparkle-doused chihuahuas adorning the walls of Midnight Mug to Divine Chaos in Adams Morgan.
And like many great artists, Isaacs’ work is a reflection of the way he lives, or the way he wishes to live.
“My genre is pop art, pop icons, that resonate in the time we are living in now. It is about making a lifestyle around it. And I’m ready to have a glittery lifestyle.”