Artist Profile: Isabelle Massart-Bursh

Published 12:18 pm Saturday, May 27, 2023

By Emily Burleigh

When Isabelle Massart-Bursh, 57, was offered the chance to become the art teacher at Leesville Junior High School in 2001, she took it in a heartbeat.

She was born, raised and educated in Belgium, but moved to Louisiana through the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana teacher exchange program. “With a background in art education from my native country, my desire was to go back to my first love, art,” she said.

She still teaches there today, and resides in Leesville alongside her husband.

As a child, Massart-Bursh was surrounded by art. I quickly became a tenet of her life. “My mother was always drawing or painting,” she explained. “Being from Europe, where art is everywhere, I have always been immersed in it.”

She said that she became an artist when she was 12 years old. “This is when I painted a cat for the first time and surprised myself with the quality of my work,” she recalled. “That painting is still hanging in my parents’ kitchen.”

The decision to teach others about the beauty of art, as both a practice and source of pleasure, felt like a fated mission. “I think art chose me. I became an art teacher, to share my love of art with others. Then it was logical for me to create and share my own vision with others.”

She is deeply moved by nature and natural processes. “The beauty of a spring morning, the mystery of a cloudy sky, the enchantment of a dark forest, the reflection of the light in the water … that is my inspiration.”

In turn, her favorite aspect of artistry is the process of creation. “I really enjoy the evolution process. You start with a blank canvas, sometimes you have a clear vision of what you want to achieve, but you never really know which direction you are going,” she mused. “Then, the painting comes to life. You retouch some areas, you back up from it, you get frustrated, you walk away …. then you see it.”

Her current muses are clouds, and she is working on a whole series of paintings to encapsulate them. “I like the series because it forces me to improve my technique from one painting to another. It is an evolutionary process.”

“Like nature, art is not static, it changes all the time.”

Ultimately, her goal is to produce eye-opening art. She quoted French Impressionist Edgard Degas, “ ‘Art is not what you see, but what you make others see’… This is what I am trying to achieve.”

The innate nature of art is to expand minds, she explained. “It provokes feelings for the viewer.”

She believes art is a human necessity, and should be a mandatory experience in every community and school.

This philosophy bleeds into her classroom. “Being an art teacher myself, I hear too often from my students, ‘I do not have an imagination,’” she explained. “We need to bring back the desire to create. It is a way of self-expression, it is therapeutic, it is essential to the development of well-rounded human beings.”

She primarily works with acrylic on canvas, sometimes covered with epoxy.

During her artistic career, her works have been displayed in cities throughout Europe and the United States. “Last summer I had the opportunity, with three other artists from the Neutral Strip, to display my work in the city of Grau Du Roi in the south of France.”

The exhibition is titled “Four Artists from the Neutral Strip” and also features art from Joey Governale, Tony McDonald and Rickie Smith.

This show will be displayed in the Lake Charles Historic City Hall from June 17 through August 19. An artist reception will be hosted on its opening day at 5:30.

She maintains an open studio in Leesville.