Bell’s paintings are layered amalgams; splashes of paint, ink, charcoal, and other media unite with symbolic imagery and hyper-realistic, soulful faces coalescing at the center. Bell uses the portrait medium to investigate the world that his subjects live in, which continually exposes them to stereotyping, violence and suffering; despite these conditions, beauty, Blackness, and the spirit prevail in Bell’s work.
“I was once told my work was powerful. I was deeply captivated by the idea that I could be powerful with an image. It is the only space in which I am allowed to be powerful.” ~ Jeremy G. Bell, 2021
In A Glimpse at Soul, Bell presents tenderly rendered portraits of Black men, women, and children. Lush red roses symbolize beauty, growth, and creation in works like And Still Shining, and Tick Tock. In works like Resolute Survivor, subjects are shrouded with protective shields and armor, creating images that are akin to a visual prayer for protection and strength.
The monumental Ascension series unveils Bell’s largest and most complex works yet. In these two nearly life sized self-portraits, Bell bravely puts himself at the forefront of his work, sharing his own experience and body as a form of protest. Bell reflects on the exhaustion and trauma experienced by himself and Black Americans.
“This constant and sustained litigation between the greater society - those who adopt Black culture and conveniently call us friend - is tiring,” he writes.
In Ascension II: The Litigator, a male figure (Bell) bows his head - cold and closed off to the world - while his spirit form stands behind him, expanding outwards. The spirit is greater than the body and seeks refuge. Bell seeks to highlight the struggle inherent in needing to protect oneself from harm, while still ascending with an open heart to spiritual growth.
“Abstraction provides this random element, which always keeps things new and fresh for me. I’m always interested in the way the paint falls on the canvas, the type of conversation that goes back and forth between myself and the work. My work is in response to my environment, while also aiming to acknowledge, highlight and counter current perceptions.” ~ Jeremy G. Bell, 2021
Jeremy G. Bell is an accomplished painter who utilizes a variety of mediums to create portraits that merge and meld with their abstracted backgrounds. Using charcoal, acrylic, oil paint, spray paint, ink, wax and more, Bell’s layered works express both personal and universal emotions.
Bell is particularly drawn to portraiture for
its power to express the human experience, and the connection and understanding
that we can find within it. There is a strong sense of emotion in his unique
blend of realism and abstraction. Bell describes his work as “alluding to more
than what it on the visible surface." This idea reveals itself through Bell’s
precise rendering of his subjects, as they emerge from abstracted backgrounds
rich with symbolism, creating depth and atmosphere in an effort to capture the
essence of what makes us human.
Born and raised in Seattle, Washington, Bell served in United States Air Force before he went on to receive his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in painting and drawing from the University of Tampa, and his Master of Fine Arts from Montclair State University in New Jersey. Bell’s work has been exhibited throughout the United States, and is held in private and public collections, including the City of Seattle and Nelson Mandela Elementary in Omaha, NE. He recently presented a solo exhibition, Utopian Blackness, at the Northwest African American Museum (NAAM) in 2019.
My recurring themes include beauty, the insinuation of a creator, Blackness, tenderness, strength and vulnerability. Ultimately, I want to connect with the viewer’s mind and heart in a personal way. I know I have been successful when the viewer experiences a new perspective, but also finds something about themselves within the work.” ~ Jeremy G. Bell, 2021