John Bell with His Crowd in Salt Lake Downtown

It was an exceptional Grand opening of the Utah Alliance Art on Jan 4th in Salt Lake
Downtown. A day earlier Fox 13 recorded the exhibit and promoted the new galleries in
the Main Street, which have been on our website since September 2007.

At the beginning I was so impressed from the crowd that even could not see the art.
The people there looked to me so different from the usual public that attend the
receptions in Main Street every first Friday of the month. Different from the others and
similar as a society. At the beginning I thought they came for the Grand Opening of the
music studio, but later I learned they are all friends of the graphic artist John Bell, who
opened a solo exhibit in the Utah Alliance Art gallery. He is forty, while a skull is printed
on his T-shirt as a part of his art work and obviously his personality. A young lady from
this crowd told me she does not like Internet and her clothes were layered in really
original way. The hair – red. And even one baby and two young boys at age abt 6-8
attended the reception. Both boys told me they loved drawing and spent much time for
art. This night they came with their parents for John Bell’s art reception.

It is time to introduce him. He is one half Transylvanian and one half Italian. His
grandparents migrated to the USA and later his parents met in Ohio. But John has
been living for abt 15 years in Salt Lake where his wife, Mary, comes from.

Recently John has begun to travel to Europe. He even told me that liked Europe better
that USA. I think this is just the impressive effect of the places that we visit beyond our
everydayness.

L. Nikolova: John, I decided to know you personally at the reception because Vanina
Harkova, my student, mentioned quality when I asked her what she liked in your
exhibit. This is not the art that can touch my heart and I was also so impressed by the
crowd, so it was even hard for me to focus on your art works. I thought I was in New
York. And I heard some interesting things first from your wife, Mary, and later from you.
Let me continue our conversation. How do you feel in Utah comparing with Ohio and
the other places that you had lived? You can connect your answer with the problem of
enculturation. In cultural anthropology we use this term that conceptualizes the
integration of the individual into the society including education and different types of
social grouping. We believe enculturation is a life-long process and we all depend on
it, respectively on art as one of the most formative cultural components of our human
creative and communicative personality.

J. Bell: Well, as far as adapting to a culture, I’ve remained a bit of a fringe dweller
here in Utah. In other places I’ve lived (Cleveland, New York, Pittsburgh, Breckenridge
Co., Mendocino, CA ) I found that I almost immediately fell into the rhythm of them, the
towns & with the people. Here it’s been much slower. I had no problem adapting to the
outdoor lifestyle which is a big part of the culture, but for most part I still feel very much
like an outsider here. In some ways, I feel we (myself & the people I have become close
with) have created our own culture. There is an solid artists community here that is
growing stronger every year. Over the years I have felt more a part of that, & that I am
helping to strengthen & grow it.

L. Nikolova: And now about your art. My brother is a graphic artist. In other words
graphics are a kind of my everydayness. What I know about this art is that it is an
extremely hard work. And of course, highly technical. You told me that you were just
born an artist. But why graphic design? How do you feel the world through your art?

J. Bell: The disciplines of graphic design are invaluable tools for me as a painter.
Creating identity & image though the use of shape, color, composition, negative space,
etc... Photography is very much the same for me. They both inform my paintings on
many levels, always bringing a fresh perspective to the work. They are all about
communication. How do I feel the world through my art? Simply put, like a mirror. I’m
just trying to translate what I see & feel into my art in a way that resonates with others.

L. Nikolova: Let me talk a little bit about Europe. You showed me Paris on your
pictures. What about the life and people in Europe? What makes them different from
Americans? Did you find life-long friends there?
   
J. Bell: A few friends, we’ll see about the life-long part. What appealed to me most
about people in Europe was how easy & open they are with you (a complete stranger).
I found myself in long, in-depth conversations with so many of the people I
encountered. This may have a bit to do with your own state of mind while traveling, but
that easy attitude seems to be the rule there, not the exception.
   
L. Nikolova: You told me that would love to come to Bulgaria. And now you know
where it is. I am sure you will love our artists in Karlovo. Do you think the people in
Bulgaria will understand your message through your art? Or probably we need to help
them – what would you like to tell the people through your art?
   
J. Bell: I don’t think anyone will have a problem understanding my art at all. I try to
convey a wide range of human emotions in as modern a way as possible. I see them
as emotional touchstones & mirrors of the times we live in. I can share my inspirations
& influences with people to help them understand me a bit better as an artist. But as
far as meaning or a message goes, I believe that comes with time. A work of art has to
live in the world for a while before the meaning becomes clear. Many people
(hopefully) will see it, talk about it, & maybe even write about it. Some where in that
time line meaning gets attached. If  I could hope for one thing that people might get
from my paintings, it would be to remind them of the possibilities of the human spirit &
the power of creative thinking.
   
L. Nikolova
: I am sure your numerous fans would love to know more about your
everydayness? What inspires you more for your art - your everydayness or everything
that happens beyond it? You even have a company for T-shirts prints. It is not very
usual one artist the cover such a huge scale of imaginary – from T-shirt prints to large
scale art works? Approaching the psychology of art, do you think the huge art work
makes you free from the accumulated cultural energy of your imaginary? Or probably
you have a specific motivation for your large scale graphic design?

J. Bell: Everything inspires me. I am hardwired to the creative process. Things I see,
hear, & read can all start a fire. I take photographs almost every day. If I’m not in the
studio working, I’m doing graphic design or filling notebooks with thoughts & ideas. It
almost never stops, even in sleep I sometimes dream the solutions to a design problem
or have images of paintings come to me. I can’t even walk into a room, any room,
without accessing it’s spatial qualities, or the light, how it hits me & then re-working the
entire space in my mind.

Art is the arena in which I learn. The questioning nature of it helps me to see &
understand life in more philosophical & spiritual terms. It is a space in which I fail &
succeed, re-evaluate & grow to understand myself, the world, & the people in it. Most
importantly, it keeps me in a constant state of becoming.

L. Nikolova: What is artcotic.com? I saw your name as a newly added artist? Do your
art works belong to a certain style of art?

J. Bell: ARTCOTIC.com is new venture I started with business partners Rob
Worthington & Alex Lodemeier. It is an online artists community & retail shop that
specializes in high end limited edition artists apparel. It is a collaborative site as well
where we invite artist to submit work to us each month in different themes. Chosen
artists get paid, they also get an artist profile page on our site, recognition & promotion
online & in national advertising. We have a lot of big name artists involved like Frank
Kozak, Liz Magrath, Superkitch & Koralie. Breaking bands like Pinback & White
Rabbits, Director David Slade, as well as very talented but lesser known artists that we
are helping to build a reputation.

As far as my artwork goes, I feel I have several very distinct styles. They all run deep
(meaning I have been developing them for many years). On the surface they may
appear quite different, but I find that they not only inform one another, but as time
passes their paths seem to cross more & more. I have always draw from many different
movements in art. From abstract expressionism, color field painting, geometric
abstraction, pop art, etc… as well as from the philosophies behind modern architecture
& sculpture. I’ve never been interested in choosing just one style & working within set
ideas, that would be to limiting. What I have been working towards all these years is
creating a movement & style that is my own.

L. Nikolova: Ethnically we are from close regions. You may not believe but I am sure
that your Romanian and Italian blood contributes a lot you to be so liked. How do you
feel – the people like you because of your art or they like your art because of your
personality?

J. Bell: Well, the art certainly draws people in, but in the end I feel it helps if they  like
you as a person. No one is going to invite you or your work into their lives or into
homes if you’re an asshole.

L. Nikolova: It seems hard to live from art in the USA. Tell me something about the
people who buy your art. I am sure many or most just want to see your art work
everyday at home. But probably there are some who invest in your art. And here is the
tricky moment – if the prices of your art work go up, you will have more clients who
would invest in your art. I saw at this exhibit the price $350.00 for your small prints and
$1800.00 for the bigger ones. When you began, what was the price of your art works?
What would do with the money if you sell some graphics for instance for a million?

J. Bell: Investing in art is always a tricky proposition. Personally, I feel you should buy
art because you connect with it. You’re going to be living with it for a long time so you
want something that your emotionally invested in, that you can live with & enjoy for
years to come.

The price of my work has gone up considerably in the past several years. The
paintings that were going for $1500 to $2500 four years ago, now go for between
$3000 & up to  $10,000, with the large scale works recently selling for as much as
$25,000.
The show you came to, “The Sound & The Fury” was a deliberate attempt to broaden
my audience. I’ve been lucky enough to have a fare amount of people locally who have
followed my work, but have ask if I would be doing anything more affordable. So that
show (which was all limited edition prints) was a response to that request. As far as
what I’d do if my work sold in the million dollar range… well, I don’t think it’s healthy to
think about that to much. If it did, I can tell you that I’d buy a lot of art from artists I
admire.

L. Nikolova: John, I understand the art is your life. However, there is something
beyond the art? Do you have some secret whose door you can open, perhaps to free
space for other secrets?
   
J. Bell
: No, nothing I would consider a secret. I want a full & happy life. I want the
people in my life to have that also. But art has always been the center of my life & want
nothing more than to have my place in that world. To have relationships & dialog with
all the people involved in it.

L. Nikolova: As my grateful acknowledgments for this interview. I thank you also for
the invitation to visit your studio and really hope that soon we will continue our
conversation there.
   
When I finished the interview, I visited the website of John Bell. It looks I was not wrong
with my feeling that John Bell that Friday brought the New York spirit in Salt Lake
Downtown because I read:

“John Bell’s work has been featured in numerous solo and group exhibitions, including
a solo exhibition & mural commission at Time Warner Center in New York City in 2005
and 2006. His work has also been featured in a cover story for Utah Style & Design. He
has received acknowledgements & reviews in Artists of Utah 15 Bytes ezine
publication, Salt Lake City Weekly, Catalyst, In Utah this week, Fox News, NY Art world,
Artnet & Blackbook magazines. Bell is an award winning graphic designer &
photographer. He received a degree in visual communication from the Art Institute of
Pittsburgh. He currently resides in Salt Lake City, Utah
(http://www.onemodernart.com)”

Lolita Nikolova, PhD
International Institute of Anthropology
29 S State Street #206
Salt Lake City, Utah 84111
http://www.iianthropology.org

Key words: John Bell, graphic design, Salt Lake City, Utah Alliance Art, anthropology,
Lolita Nikolova


©2008
International Institute of Anthropology
©2008 John Bell
©2008 Lolita Nikolova
©2008 Journey.bg
John     
      BELL
Most recent event:
Solo exhibit. Reception
January 4, 2008.
Utah Art Alliance
127 Main Street, Downtown,
Salt Lake City, Utah
January 2008
From his homepage: John
Bell’s work has been
featured in numerous
solo and group
exhibitions, including a
solo exhibition & mural
commission at Time
Warner Center in New
York City in 2005 and
2006. His work has also
been featured in a cover
story for Utah Style &
Design. He has received
acknowledgements &
reviews in Artists of Utah
15 Bytes ezine
publication, Salt Lake City
Weekly, Catalyst, In Utah
this week, NY Art world,
Artnet and Blackbook
magazines. Bell is an
award winning graphic
designer & photographer.
He received a degree in
visual communication
from the Art Institute of
Pittsburgh. He currently
resides in Salt Lake City,
Utah.
Valentine’s Day 2008 Top
Interview