Luisa Rabbia came to the Museum in May of 2007 and spent hours looking at books, illustrations, and drawings in the collection and archives. Rabbia became fascinated by photographs and ephemera that Isabella Stewart Gardner pasted in her travel scrapbook of her visit to China in 1883. This album had recently been digitally photographed and Rabbia spent her residency delving into the high-quality files. During the following year, Rabbia used the photographs to reinterpret Gardner’s scrapbook and create one of her own; a video of an imaginary landscape animated with her drawings, video that she shot while in Boston, and images of the collection set to an original soundtrack.
In 2008, Rabbia returned to the Gardner to install the 26-minute digital video in the Museum’s Special Exhibition Gallery. Travels with Isabella, Travel Scrapbooks 1883/2008 is an atlas of memory, a moving collection of images that maps life in motion. Rabbia spoke about her work and residency with curator Pieranna Cavalchini and with Fa Ventilato who composed the soundtrack for the digital video, during a Gardner After Hours (today known as Third Thursdays) event. In addition to this work, Rabbia created an artist book in conjunction with the exhibition, and worked with Cavalchini and designer Isabel Meirelles to design an interactive micro-site of Rabbia’s scrapbook. The site used the long strip of static images represented in the video. Marked on the image strip are points of access for the exploration of Rabbia’s creative process in making this movie.
Travels with Isabella was also featured in the Museum's 2012 exhibition, Magic Moments: The Screen and The Eye- 9 Artists 9 Projections. Rabbia returned to give multiple talks about the work during the week her video was presented in August.
In 2014 Rabbia created, Waterfall, a 36’ x 16’ drawing printed on vinyl for the Museum’s Façade art space. The mass of cascading color, curved and branched in ways that suggested the essential forms of rivers, trees, and the human circulatory system. The landscape functioned as a metaphor for the human condition: Roots connect and nourish plants in the same way that veins and arteries nourish a human body.
Luisa Rabbia (b. 1970 Italy) is a surreal storyteller who draws us out of our world and into another with familiar narratives of the human condition. Her works are deeply rooted in drawing, which she sees as a platform that unties rational construct with imagination. In addition to works on paper, Rabbia has taken the traditional form of sculpture and developed it in a surprising way by creating three-dimensional drawings of fragile human figures enveloped in protective swaths of fabric in papier-mâché or porcelain, on which she draws—thus, the drawing becomes a skin. Her renderings and sculptural figures also are present as individual elements or animated in her video pieces.
Rabbia received a Master's degree from the Accademia Albertina di Belle Arti in Turin, and trained as a studio assistant to artist Gilberto Zorio of the Arte Povera movement. She has had solo exhibitions at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, The Fondazione Merz, Turin, the Fondazione Querini Stampalia, Venice, the Fundación PROA, Buenos Aires, the Associazione Galleria Continua, San Gimignano, The Massimo Audiello Gallery, New York, The Giorgio Persano Gallery, Turin, the Mario Diacono Gallery, Boston, and the Peter Blum Gallery, New York. Luisa Rabbia lives and works in Brooklyn, New York and Turin, Italy.