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COMING SOON.
Isabel Okoro
Can you tell me a bit about the themes in your work?

My work explores themes of Black existence, freedom, joy and autonomy. It focuses on this idea of a Normatopia - a term I’ve coined to encompass the values of my visual universe, Eternity. A Normatopia is normal, not perfect - and so the question becomes, what is normal to me? I believe that normal is simply the right to be. It is where we land when we think beyond the binaries of a hard reality and a utopia. Reality can be hard and painful, and a utopia is expected to be easy and perfect, but a Normatopia is simply normal. It is still idealized, and still sought after as an attractive progression from our current state, but there is a lot more room for human error and so it is more realistically achievable.

Can you describe your process?

I’m interested in exploring the necessary interactions between the motherland and the diaspora, and creating images with a scholarly approach. My process usually begins with some inspiration - a phrase that’s lingered in my mind for a while, the title of my current favorite song, a colour that I’m interested in. From that inspiration, the next step is research and referencing, and then organizing these thoughts coherently. I like to write a brief description of projects before I carry them out, as a guide, but sometimes this comes after. It’s a little weird - I don’t really think I have a defined way that I work. Sometimes I put everything together before creating the images, and other times I allow myself to go out and create viscerally and then put everything together backwards. It all depends on how I’m feeling at any given moment.

Are you self-taught or did you study photography somewhere?

I am self-taught.

Where do you draw inspiration from?

I’m inspired by everyday life happenings, community and archives. I allow myself to be inspired by life as I live it, and I draw a lot of inspiration from other artists and their archives. Also, textual references. Given my scientific background, I approach image making with some framework in mind. I like to pull references from scholarly articles or books.

"Sometimes I put everything together before creating the images, and other times I allow myself to go out and create viscerally and then put everything together backwards. It all depends on how I’m feeling at any given moment."
Who are some of your influences?

Toyin Ojih Odutola, Solange, Wong Kar-Wai, James Barnor, Barkley Hendricks

Have you always been creative? What did your early days of art making look like and how has your practice developed into where it is now?

I haven’t always been creative - I recently completed my Bsc in Neuroscience and Psychology and that was the path my life was taking until recently. I was always intrigued by photography, since I was 12, but it wasn’t until I moved to Canada in 2016 that I was able to delve into my creative side and see what it’s all about. Earlier on, I was mostly photographing my friends and nature. We would go out to Jackson Square in Hamilton on the weekends and just create images for Instagram or whatever. Eventually, I knew I wanted to do more. I felt I had a lot to say and I realized that I could tell stories with my camera. So slowly but surely, I began to work on more intentional projects. I would work with a friend who was a stylist, or I would show my sitters some references and ask them to do something similar. I wanted to create the things I saw in my head, the things I dreamt about.

How has your art practice changed over time?

I think it has gotten more intentional. I’m trying a lot these days to embrace my scientific background and apply all the things I learnt about human behaviour and emotion to my work. I’m interested in creating images that stand the test of time and can be critically engaged with.

Have you shown your work before?

Yes, I currently have work in two shows in Toronto - Gallery TPW & Gallery 44.

Can you share any words of advice for artists that might be just starting out?

Believe in yourself and stay working with intention.

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