Michelangelo, Goya, Picasso and Michael Bell

Michelangelo, Goya, Picasso and Michael Bell

Today is a summer day and we are happy. Of course, we are going to speak of art in the weekly section of the American artist Michael Bell on Yareah Magazine: MBELLART, but in an exultant way, because we are with the immortal masters. What did they say about art? Yes, it’s important to know it and it’s also important to hear a current master and to compare opinions.

Interview by Isabel del Rio.

Hi Michael. How is life?

M.B.- Life is good. Blessed and back from an incredible week of filming on set of “The Capones” in Chicago with my best friend Dominic Capone, which will air this fall, finishing up some commissions in studio and mixing all this business with some pleasure and R & R with my wife and son down the Jersey Shore.  So what’s on tap this week Isabel…

I.R.- Michelangelo is the first artist that I loved. Many years ago, my grandfather took me to the Vatican Basilica and I saw Michelangelo’s Pieta. I was completely impressed. Then, I think we can start thinking about this Michelangelo quote: “A man paints with his brains and not with his hands.” Do you agree? How about training?

M.B.- Pieta – absolutely my favorite work by Michelangelo.  Interesting choice of quotes as well, since this work was the last work Michelangelo ever signed, having reportedly vowed to “never sign another work of his hands” after signing his name on the sash running across Mary’s chest.  It’s one of my favorites of his because it’s also his most highly polished work, and the fact he portrayed Mary much younger, in similar fashion to how Edvard Munch portrayed “the Madonna” it immediately draws me in.  I do believe the mind is the sexiest and most powerful organ and that man does paint with his brains, although it also does take skill and a certain “touch” to be able to pull off a vision and take it from our “mind’s eye to the hand.”  I think the devout conceptualists out there would sing his quote from the rooftops, but without technical skill and conceptual approach, let’s face it – not just anyone can “do what some of us are able to do” as artists, especially as realists. Anybody can have a vision, but to have the technical skill to see it through – that’s where the rubber meets the road in my opinion.


MICHAEL BELL. Georgia – the Departure 14″ X 18″ oil/paper, 2002

I.R.- In recent times Picasso said “All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” Of course, it’s a nice idea, and I know that it’s true in your particular experience but tell us, why is so difficult to remain an artist? What are your tricks?

M.B.- No tricks.  Just the imagination to “dream it” and the dedication and hard work to “become it.”  It’s an interesting question, and one I hear all the time – “What are your odds of making it as an artist?”  It’s funny – nobody ever questions whether someone really has what it takes to become an “investment banker” for instance, or what are your odds of making it as an accountant, as an elementary school teacher, as a chemist, for instance?  People assume pursuing those careers implies a reasonable chance for success.  Truth is, if you want to pursue a career in the Arts and you’re willing to put in the dedication and hard work to get it, the odds are in your favor.  For me visual journaling is the 1st step.  It takes you back to what you did as a child.  Dreaming again, visualizing again, journaling out your thoughts, desires, future plans…My Grandmother, who was a self-taught artist, taught me “attention is the key to life.” You pay careful attention to the “whispers around you” to your “inner voice” with honesty you will not only find out who you really are but what your art should really be about.

I.R.- Finally, another idea that I really like, this time by Francisco de Goya: “Fantasy, abandoned by reason, produces impossible monsters; united with it, she is the mother of the arts and the origin of marvels.” What do you think? What are your fantasies?

M.B.- You truly picked three incredible Master artists to juxtapose my own career against this time Isabel, but at the same time, you couldn’t have picked three better artists who also combined the right amount of vision, technical skill and controversy much the same as I have throughout my young career.  I believe de Goya was a visionary and he wielded his wand through imploring   “empathy” in his works and involving us, the viewer, in the experience he was feeling unlike any artist of his time.  My favorite work of his is “The third of May.”

It demonstrates empathy perfectly through the juxtaposition of loosely painted Spaniards in warm, glowing earthy tones against the stark, shiny faceless firing squad of the French.  His Black paintings are also some of my favorites, since, as you know I too get lost in chiaroscuro and personal grays, like in my “Carnevale Italiano” series and in my “Seven Scars” series at  For me, what de Goya by that quote is what I do with much of my work, including my most recent “Seven Scars” series, juxtaposing fantasy against its stark and sometimes dark reality – like juxtaposing a girl in her first holy communion dress against the backdrop of a corrupt marriage and a car bombing, symbolic of the marriage between good and evil within one work.

Michelangelo, Goya, Picasso and Michael Bell

Michael Bell, “Seven Scars, Scene 2” 14” X 20”, oils on paper, 2012

As far as my fantasies go…you really want to go there Isabel?   I will say this, my fantasies take on many forms in my work, and in my dreams.  I dream very vividly.  Many of my early works, especially my “Love Series”, are where many of my fantasies were journaled-out first as original poems and then re-constructed as paintings.  We’ll have to save more on that topic for another day I think…

Michael Bell, “Obscure”, oils on wood, 2002

Michael Bell, “Obscure”, oils on wood, 2002

I.R.- Have a nice week, Michael, I know you have great projects in mind.


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is renowned American painter and muralist, famous for his larger-than-life sized narrative series paintings and for his infamous portrait clientele, which includes the late Mob Boss John Gotti, best friend Dominic Capone III (Al Capone’s great nephew) and numerous actors from The Sopranos, Goodfellas, A Bronx Tale and more. Yes, his works are the mirror of a tragic world, but they deepen our human psychology with strong brush strokes and vivid colors, from personal memories and silent echoes, with courage and creativity. Bell was naturally gifted in art and won 1st Place in his first juried art exhibition at age 5. As an emerging artist he spent a lot of his time in and around New York City, studying art with his maternal grandmother, Violet Vallery, a self-taught artist from Lyndhurst, New Jersey. Then, after the still-born death of his sister Amanda and the sudden passing of his Grandfather, a former professional boxer, Bell began to explore life's personal and psychological issues through his paintings. In addition, Bell has written his first screenplay based on the real-life events surrounding his famous "TICKET TO RIDE™" painting series and has won three national awards in 2013. Bell exhibits his large, narrative series paintings in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

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