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Glass Menagerie

Isabella Rupp’s Fine Art Offers a Window to the Soul

For Isabella Rupp the glass is half full. Literally. Her works of art utilize glass in many forms, transforming the medium through torches and kilns and mosaics to create visually stunning, three-dimensional pieces. They also touch an emotional chord; glass represents both strength and the vulnerability to shatter. “To me it is about the impermanence of life,” says Rupp, “Glass is always transforming with heat and gravity and time. It is never the same from one moment to the next when it is interacting with light, and I love that about it.”

Float — each window 72” x 48”, fused glass, powder, frit Photo: Joanne Camuto

Like a chrysalis, Rupp’s personal transformation morphed with her artistic transformation. She was taking an art class in Manhattan with Valerie Carmet to create mosaics and when presented with potential materials she chose glass. She had kept an old window from Cape Cod and picked this as her frame, “I love windows because they hold people’s energies and thoughts.” At the same time on a trip to Club Med she was musing with her friend about changing her name. “I was the second girl in 79 years in the Rupp family so when I was born, I was going to be Joseph,” she explains, “So they picked a popular name and hence I was Nancy.” She felt a kinship with the name Isabella, also because it means Elizabeth which was her beloved Grandmother’s name. So, when she went to sign her first work for a show in Chelsea, it seemed the perfect time to transition. The glass mosaic “Becoming Isabella” was widely admired and despite offers, Isabella decided not to sell, “It was too meaningful to me.”

With a successful career in television, Rupp was balancing work with her burgeoning art career. She felt her work as a writer and producer honed her story telling skills. Rupp also credits her training including at the Pilchuck Glass School in Seattle co-founded by Dale Chihuly and studying with Narcissus Quagliata who she says is as to glass what Beethoven is to classical music. Her full-time home in Southampton purchased in 2002 became the perfect retreat and she transformed her two-car garage into a fully functioning art studio complete with two kilns and a torch. Rupp makes her own palettes of glass from crushed powder, stringers, frit and sheets of glass. She cuts up these handmade palettes to create a composition that is then fired in the kiln one or more times to become a new whole. Some of her artistic works become architectural like at Hamptons Float, offering a canvas of clear bubbles for privacy but the clarity for the transmission of light.

Rising Water Bubbles

Her husband Steve Rosborough has been essential with his wood work both in framing her works and in building the coolest Buddhist tree house on their property.  With her state-of-the art studio, Rupp can use heat to fuse glass multiple times to add texture, depth and dimensionality. Forget the thought of a delicate lass in a field painting a landscape. This glass work is full body with protective gear, programming a 30 by 60” kiln and using a flaming torch instead of brush. Rupp says of her process, “It is both scientific and highly creative and that’s the right and left-brain part of it.” Rupp jokes that friends tell her she needs to develop her elevator pitch for her work. But like the sculptures and hangings which change constantly with light and perspective, so does the deeper meaning of her creations. Clues may be found in her imaginative titles such as “The Night Had More to Offer.” Rupp explains, “I don’t want to say what the piece means because I love to see how it appears to the viewer. The title needs to lead but also stay open so people can bring their own experience to what they are feeling.” True as they look through it to the outside world, or perhaps, from the outside world in.