Interview with Michael Bell in his weekly section MBELLART on Yareah magazine.By Isabel del Rio.
I.R.- Happy New Year 2014, Michael Bell. Precisely and since everybody is wishing a different 2014, more peaceful and positive than the old 2013, today I would like to speak about this new ‘religion’ that we called New Age. It’s a set of ideas and beliefs that are lost in the mists of time and found in pagan religions in relation with Nature. For example, American Indian beliefs. Weeks ago, we spoke about different influences on your art. How about American Indian culture? Has it influenced your artwork?
M.B. – Happy New Year Isabel! And a New Age it is…As far as American Indian culture having any direct influences on my work, no, but only because I don’t know too much about the culture, although I do appreciate their plight and the mystical beliefs. I also enjoy Native American art. It wasn’t until I was flown out to Lake Powell, which straddles the border between Utah and Arizona, to do a photo shoot for a painting client of mine that I began to truly appreciate the lighting in the Southwest. All that warm red rock…it was an amazing working vacation. I literally snapped the shots I needed and then partied on a 60’ houseboat the rest of the week with my wife, my painting client and her friends. There was nothing like it.
M.B. – About as close as I’ve come to incorporating American Indians in my work was in Scars, Scene 5, which is part of a narrative series created for author Toni Marie Ricci. In this particular work the Indian chiefs represent the plight of John Gotti, Jr., as he emerges victorious from his fourth trial. He also has a fascination with the great Indian chiefs so it’s another reason I incorporated them into the work symbolically to represent him as one of the “last of the mohicans.”
I.R.- Yesterday, Yareah wrote about parallel universes and alternative reality. Have you ever felt in touch with the spirit of some death artist or with these beautiful goddesses called Muses or you paint in a more rational state of mind?
M.B. – I do believe in parallel universes and alternative reality, and I’m also very connected to the dream world, which I believe is a parallel universe in itself, or somewhere on the “Astral plane”. My recent 31 Nights Part V series – the Arts of Privacy is all about the dream world. It’s about connecting to your inner subconscious and bringing things that haunt your dreams to the surface in your work only to bury them in reality. I’ve experienced too much “coincidence” in my life to believe otherwise. I think as artists we are more connected than most are due to the fact we truly pay more attention to it than most because we are looking for clues in our work to constantly fuel us along, painting by painting, body of work to body of work, all leading to what we’re best known for.
M.B.- I’ve also had countless conversations over the years about parallel universes and alternative realities, in particular with a dear artist friend of mine, Michael Sprouse. We actually had a conversation before about being very connected to our famous artist predecessors. I touched base with Michael to recall the conversation and this is what he had to say about it:
M.S. – “I can’t remember exactly who it was that I spoke with about this topic, but I recall she made her living as a psychic/spiritualist. I also believe that I met her at some art related social event a few years ago, but that is fuzzy as well. In any case, during our conversation, I mentioned that I had a very dear friend who was also an artist and with whom I felt very connected with on several levels, spiritually and artistically. I explained that you and I had created some really tremendous work together side by side and that the process was very fluid. For me, when we were working like that, it felt like stepping into some kind of space that seemed transcendent. It felt very natural as if there was a long history behind it that made it feel like it was simply a part of me that I had always knew was there, but that I had somehow forgotten – like rediscovering an old, treasured book from your past in the back of a shelf. She proceeded to confirm what you and I have always sensed. She said that you and I have shared many lifetimes together in all kinds of relationships – but that the one common thread was that we were both always artists in each incarnation and that we always managed to find a way to work together as artists.
Though she didn’t give me any names or dates, she said that some of these incarnations, you and I were quite well known and that our work and our relationship are still known today
She also told me that the energy between us was incredibly strong. She told me that you and I have never had an incarnation without coming together – that basically, in each life, you and I find a way to make our paths cross and once they do, we stay connected until the next incarnation and that we plan it in between lifetimes. She said it was really uncanny and that she was certain that there was still much that you and I would accomplish in this life as well. What’s truly odd is that even though I can remember what she said to me, I can hardly remember anything about her at all, even the details of how and when she and I conversed are very vague. I can’t remember her face, her name, her voice – it’s so odd. I know that she and I conversed, but it is almost as if she and I were meant to cross paths just so that I could receive the message from her and once that was delivered, the rest sort of effervesced back into the ether more or less. Well, that’s the story and I’m sticking to it. It will certainly be far-fetched for most, but I’ve learned over the years that naysayers are a bore and usually deeply unhappy people. Her story rang true for me. In fact, it was more than that. I think that may be why I can’t recall much detail about her. When I listened to her words, it was more of an Epiphany. It was like prying open an old, forgotten crate to discover that it was filled with shining jewels and beaming gold.
M.B. – As you can see, Michael and I are both deeply rooted in the spiritual New Age and believe in everything having meaning. It’s just a matter of being in sync with the universe like you’re in sync with your art. If you listen closely, it too, will tell you its secrets. The painting (above) was the first collaboration painting I ever did with Michael Sprouse and was a truly cathartic process. Your viewers can watch some found footage below of the behind the scenes of the making of this painting when we auctioned it off for a charity benefit for the Milton Theatre Project. Michael has a studio on the gallery circuit in Lewes, Delaware and we plan on teaching some Collaboration Art Workshops together this summer, so check back for more on that!
I.R.- If you can travel into the past, which century and country would you choose? (For example, I’d like to be in Paris in 1900 when they were building the Eiffel Tower…)
M.B. – I think I’d love to be part of Edvard Munch’s volatile circle of “Christiania Bohemians” which was comprised of writers, artists and women muses back in the late 1800’s in Oslo. Or maybe I’d be better suited as a Gladiator from the days of Roman times. If in America, I’d be best suited for the roaring 20’s, and probably would have been close pals with Al Capone, much the same as I am today with his great nephew Dominic Capone III. Wouldn’t you agree, Isabel? Have a nice week…
I.R. – Have a nice week, Michael.