Today, on Yareah magazine, visit Michael Bell section MBELLART: The Disaster of War.
By Isabel del Rio
I.R.- Hi Michael, print series by Goya The Disasters of War is currently being exhibited at Frist Center in Nashville TN. http://fristcenter.org/calendar-exhibitions/detail/goya-the-disasters-of-warIt explores themes such as carnage, conflict, famine, heroism and retribution. What do you think about The Disasters of War by Goya?
M.B.- I’m a huge fan of Goya’s work and love the fact more and more I’m seeing fantastic exhibitions of etchings in D.C. in the past few years. From Edvard Munch’s “Master Prints” to the “Darker Side of Light | Arts of Privacy” Exhibition featuring more than 100 works—mainly prints, but also drawings, illustrated books, and small sculpture—from the Gallery’s extensive collections that reveal the romantic sensibilities of 19th century art collecting. They equated the experience of art in this particular exhibition as “a private affair, like taking a book down from the shelf for quiet enjoyment.” As far as Goya’s “Disasters of War” I really like the fact they revived Goya’s original intentions for the order in which it is to be seen, sharing his views on the war’s impact on city and countryside. I think a particular “order of viewing” is important to artists. Spain has seen its share of wars and Goya’s work is important. Even his Black Paintings, which also could be interpreted as socio-political in many ways. On the importance of his historical timeline as well as his “Disasters of War” being displayed in their intended order of viewing — it’s definitely important to me, as far as piecing together clues to the narratives I share. It’s also what I love about etchings, prints. They are like visual journals – a private affair.
I’ve recently begun doing “print exchanges” with my contemporaries. A wonderful man and remarkable artist who mentored me early on in my career, Roger Shipley, recently introduced me to doing “art exchanges” and I love the concept. It’s something surely that’s been around for centuries, but for me, it’s an important way for artists to begin the “collecting” end of the art experience while letting other artists in their life know how much they are valued and appreciated. It’s a “respect thing.” I’ve done art exchanges with Roger for the following prints – his “Alone” and “Fishing” Viscosity Etchings to my “Lascivia” and “Abjection, Scene 3” original drawing from my recent “31 Nights, Arts of Privacy” series. I was Rog’s protégé and I’m a huge fan of his work as an artist. He’s someone to visit and take note of at http://rogershipley.com I then paid Roger’s gesture forward with a print exchange with one of my protégé’s – Katie Emmitt of http://katieemmitt.com with a second of only six “Lascivia” prints in exchange for one of her hand pulled figurative linocuts.
I.R. The exhibition tries also the relation between Napoleon wars and current wars. Have you ever been inspired by a war: Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan…?
M.B.- I haven’t, but I think that’s the old school in me. I wasn’t brought up to fight for “other people’s wars” – politician’s wars. Which they all are. I mean, somebody’s getting rich off all those wars. It certainly isn’t me, so I’ve chosen not to devote my “voting time” nor my “artistic time” towards any of these pezzonovantes. But that’s just my cynical take on things. Especially politics. I don’t go there because I think 99% of the politicians are full of shit. Cut me in on their “piece of the pie” and sure, I’ll paint it out – become “inspired.” But until then, don’t count on any war inspired pieces from me, Isabel.
From a sociological point of view, Goya’s “Disasters of War” etchings…and his “Black Paintings” for that matter, imply a political interpretation that may be applied to “Saturn: the state devouring its subjects or citizens” which reflects the unstable position that Spain found itself in following the constitutional uprising. Goya’s themes and tone of the paintings definitely reflect Spain’s restoration of absolute monarchy. Many of the characters in the Black Paintings (duelers, frail old men, nuns, spies and informers of the Inquisition) have also been said to “represent a world that was rendered obsolete by the French Revolution”, which I briefly touched on in our February Interview on Napoleon and Sherlock Holmes.
I.R.- What inspires you more the hero or the villain … or anonymous people around them?
M.B.- Definitely the villain. Because there’s heroic qualities in him. I’ve seen it. Many just don’t get the opportunity to see that, they only see the dark side, because these aren’t people many “citizens” actually know. I’ve seen more “villains” do heroic things than heroes because they have nothing to lose and they’re often after redemption. Sometimes it’s just too late for them. But these tragic heroes are the ones I paint about. The John Gotti’s, the Tupac Shakurs of the world. The roses that grow from concrete.