Today, American Icons on the weekly section of American artist Michael Bell on Yareah MBELLART http://www.yareah.com/arts/mbellart-weekly/ Remember, every Wednesday, you have a date with Michael Bell.
I.R.- Hi Michael. How is life? I think rather well since I have seen you enjoying The Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York with your son (photos on Facebook) in front of Snoopy… Nice Snoopy! I know Thanksgiving is important for everybody in USA but I would like to ask you about artistic events involving this celebration. For example, that fantastic parade. What is your favorite one? Why?
M.B.- Hi Isabel. Life is good. And yes, my family and I enjoyed a nice time seeing the Macy’s Day Parade floats and this year more than ever before. Since my Grandmother passed away this year and every Thanksgiving we used to go into New York City together for the day as a family when I was a kid, my wife and I decided to renew the tradition and keep it alive. We also spent some time at my Grandparents’ grave giving them a special Christmas wreath and balloon from their great grandson for their headstone. It’s a time for giving thanks, so that was our way, and for that reason I’d have to say this was one of the most fantastic parades I’ve ever been to.
A close second would be the parade I was in for Lycoming College’s 2013 Alumni Awards this past October. My family was driven through the city of Williamsport, Pennsylvania in a slick black 1929 Packard and onto the Lycoming Warrior’s football field as they announced my being awarded the Dr. James E. Douthat Outstanding Achievement Award, which is awarded in recognition of alumni who have achieved significant accomplishments that reflect positively on the college. That weekend we were guests of the President to watch the Homecoming Football game from his skybox, my son got his picture taken with all the Lycoming Cheerleaders (which he LOVED), I gave an artist talk to the aspiring undergrad artists in Lycoming Art Professor Seth Goodman’s classes, critiqued their work one-on-one, and then attended the opening of my own Solo Exhibition of my “Ticket to Ride” paintings at President Trachte’s mansion.
I.R.- No doubt, Snoopy is an American icon as well as Marilyn Monroe, Billy the Kid, Michael Jackson, JFK… Well, there are so many! Who have influenced your art? How?
M.B.- John Gotti, Mickey Rourke and the Mob film classics in general. Gotti, because of what his name alone still conjures up. Also, because he’s someone who came from nothing as far as money and opportunity go and achieved fame and notoriety while rising through the ranks to the top of a violent world, but at a great cost. He was a throwback to the age of Al Capone who, like him or not, lived by his own set of principles, never conformed, never ducked, always stayed true to what he believed in ‘til the end. He was also really easy to paint, given his distinct facial features and charisma.
Mickey Rourke influenced my work because I could relate to the films he performed in, like “9 ½ weeks”, “Angel Heart”, “Diner”, “The Pope of Greenwich Village”, “White Sands.” Rourke also is someone who has led life by his own ideals, sometimes to a fault to his own career. He’s a tragic hero, which I can relate to. He’s dark, dangerous, yet extremely likeable all at the same time. You root for him even when he’s doing really violent things. Some of my early works, like my Love Series, were inspired by some of his films. Films have always played a major role in my world, especially Mob films. Classics like “Goodfellas”, “The Godfather”, “A Bronx Tale”, “the Sopranos”…films that capture “street realism” on a cinematic level, which is what I often portray in my own art. There’s a reason for my infamous clientele base. You will see evidence of this direction in my work in my latest “Carnevale Italiano” series for 2014.
I.R.- My icon has always been Lola Flores http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lola_Flores Yes, very Spanish, no surprise if you don’t know her. However, if you are so interested in Italian culture and Italy is the land of so celebrated artists, maybe you have European icons too. Who and why?
M.B.- Lola Flores, too, has a beautiful yet tragic story. Perhaps you and I are drawn to similar worlds for very serendipitous reasons, no? Romeo and Juliet would be a story that re-emerges for me in my world. They hail from the same Veneto region of Italy as some of my great ancestors. And of course, if anyone missed my Interview on Caravaggio, he will forever be an inspiration to me. We share some similar stories and lived some similar lives.
I.R.- Enjoy your days, Michael. Christmas is coming!