Artist Spotlight: Isaac Bloodworth
Get to know Isaac Bloodworth, a New Haven-based artist who recently joined CT Murals as a partner muralist.
Isaac Bloodworth is a Black Afro-Carribean New Haven native who loves the arts. He describes himself as a “renaissance artist” because alongside being a trained puppeteer he is also a muralist, a graphic designer, an animator, a sculptor and a performer. These days he mostly gravitates towards the medium of digital art.
Isaac’s artistic vision is a modern day freedom dream about what could and should be, a prayer for a society in which Black kids not only survive but thrive. He writes and performs puppet shows that center elements of the Black experience and creates original Black characters that live beyond the racist status quo. Drawing from his love of cartoons, his art is colorful and expressive, with lots of soft edges and whimsical elements that invite viewers into a realm where anything is possible.
CT Murals’ Content Creator, Joy Meikle, interviewed Isaac for our latest Artist Spotlight. (FYI, Joy and Isaac are dating 😎 ). This interview has been lightly edited.
Why do you do what you do?
Art helped me cope as an only child. It entertained me when my parents had to go to work and my mom was in medical school. It also allowed me to broaden my imagination and explore the infinite possibilities of human existence. I like inspiring people and bringing people together through art.
Do you think of your art as fulfilling a purpose?
As a Black artist, I want to show younger Black creatives that it’s possible to be different and weird and unique and also be accepted. I want to speak life into Black kids with my art. Any chance I get, I vocalize to Black kids that they are beautiful!
Isaac Bloodworth, Young Devil, 2020. Isaac Bloodworth, Fun Run, 2020.
What advice would you give to other young Black creatives?
When you feel like throwing your idea in the trash you should still cultivate your idea, even if you feel like it’s already been done or you think that no one likes it. And remember to develop and workshop ideas with other folks because you're not in a bubble. You live amongst a community who is here to support you!
Where do you get your inspiration?
My art is a reflection of what I wished I could have seen as a Black kid growing up. For example, one of my favorite original characters is “Joy da Black Boi.” I try to envision Joy as me and I depict him doing the things I would have liked to do growing up without worry.
Colorful macabre art is the main inspiration behind my “Unique Misfits” characters. Those characters are kind of how I envisioned myself as a teenager. I didn’t want to be visible or seen at that time in my life. I also didn’t exactly enjoy drawing faces, so I started using objects as the character’s heads LOL. In general, I like being able to incorporate fantastical elements into my art because this helps me feel unbound from my current oppressive reality.
What drew you to doing murals?
I enjoy doing murals because the process allows me to connect with my community and get community-members involved, specifically younger folks.
The first mural I created was when I took a graffiti art class in high school and got to complete a big abstract graffiti painting on a wall in downtown New Haven. That building got torn down and it’s a steakhouse now. My love for large-scale public art was reignited in 2019, when I was approached by City Wide Youth Coalition to create an indoor mural inside their offices that inspired youth. More recently, I’ve been attracted to opportunities that allow me to put my characters on a bigger canvas. For example, this summer I was hired by the city of New Haven to create a Joy da Black Boi piece, which can still be seen at City Hall.
Isaac in front of his Joy da Black Boi vinyl mural, Soda Surf.
What role does arts funding have?
Like all systems in the United States, the art world is extremely racist. I see this racism play out in how gatekeepers function. Funding typically caters to white folks, particularly white men, which means the art world keeps retelling the same stories over and over again or other people’s stories get taken advantage of. After this summer and the uprisings against police brutality, the redundant cycle of Black trauma led to temporary support for Black and Brown folks and then after a few months things went back to how they were before.
We need to fund and uplift marginalized folks so they can work as artists. Funding can also make spaces and materials more available and accessible, particularly for art forms that tend to price people out.
What’s next for you as an artist?
I’m currently working on a few mural projects with CT Murals! I’m going to try to recruit students from a local school to work with me so they can actively learn how to make a mural. I’m also working on a Black children’s book and an Afro Mythology project. I hope to get my work in a gallery soon! I’m also involved in local community organizing and activism, especially with my union Local 34.
Isaac’s mural at Citywide Youth Coalition in downtown New Haven.
Isaac Bloodworth majored in Puppet Arts at the University of Connecticut. He currently works at the Yale Center for British Art as a Museum Technician. You can find his murals at the offices of City Wide Youth Coalition on Chapel Street and on the windows of New Haven City Hall by the Amistad Memorial. This summer he’ll be working as a lead muralist on the 39 MLK Mural Equity Tour with CT Murals. Follow him on IG at @ way_ward_17