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items tagged with Les Bell

“A Real Renaissance Man”: St. Ambrose Art Professor Leslie Bell (Sort of) Retires After 38 Years
Written By: Jeff Ignatius
Section: Art

Category: Feature Stories

2012-03-15 12:34:02

Leslie Bell in his office. Photo Corey Wieckhorst.

One minute, St. Ambrose art professor Leslie Bell is talking about his paintings – mostly allegorical scenes featuring women and girls. The next minute he’s talking about his students – especially the female ones – without having shifted gears.

“On a really basic level, I’m trying to kindle a spark of quirky individuality in each person I paint,” he said in an interview last week. “I don’t want them to come across as generic. And ... through body language, environment, to a lesser extent facial expression – because my characters tend to be a little bit on the deadpan side – even fashion or dress ... I want to communicate a kind of self-made-ness.”

He then says he doesn’t want to be cheesy – the simplistic idea that girls can be carpenters or play chess: “I want it to be more what we deal with everyday in the studio, which is following what you’re interested in, sort out the ‘should’ voice in you ... , acknowledge that there is peer pressure and that there are societal pressures and that there are laws, but then make as much use of the freedoms that you have to cultivate your interests, develop your interests, don’t be ashamed to be an intellectual, fight me as a professor ... .”

One can see that shift happening even more quickly here, in a single sentence: “I want my work to be really affirmative of women’s and girls’ abilities to create themselves, to stick to their own ideals, to find ways of proving to whoever might be skeptical of what it is to be a woman artist or just a woman that there are as many paths to maturity as there are people attempting to mature.”

This conflation is illuminating, as Bell’s artistic interest in female experience and identity seems inseparable from his teaching responsibility to help young artists develop their own voices. He notes that well over half of the students in the St. Ambrose art department are women, and it’s easy to infer that his painting is akin to homework, a way to develop empathy and connections with his female students. They’re also a way of leading by example, of showing through art a path to authenticity.


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Bold Statements: The Rock Island Fine Arts Exhibition, Through May 1 at Augustana College
Written By: Jeff Ignatius
Section: Art

Category: Reviews

2011-03-11 11:25:49

Leslie Bell, 'Little Guilders'

You can’t miss Leslie Bell’s Little Guilders. His generous use of blazing hot pink and graffiti-style drips with neoclassical nudes is a compelling and somewhat mysterious blend of figurative, narrative, and abstract painting. Of the 56 works in the 35th Annual Rock Island Fine Arts Exhibition, vivid and conceptually layered two-dimensional work such as this dominates the walls, with comparatively small yet graceful three-dimensional pieces serving as complements.

The annual exhibition, in Centennial Hall at Augustana College through May 1, includes artists who live within 150 miles of the Quad Cities and awards more than $3,000 to 10 top-judged works. This year’s show was juried by Dan Mills, an artist and the director of the Samek Art Gallery at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania.

About half the work Mills selected is exceptionally strong, balancing technique, aesthetic, and ideas. The remainder demonstrates technical skill but lacks the innovation or conceptual intrigue of the exhibit’s best pieces.


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Memory, Identity: Peter Xiao and Les Bell, through November 25 at Quad City Arts
Written By: Jeff Ignatius
Section: Art

Category: Feature Stories

2009-11-19 16:27:24

Peter Xiao, 'Guardians of State.' Click for a larger version.The centerpiece of the current two-person exhibit at Quad City Arts is a collection of four paintings recalling Peter Xiao's childhood in China.

From an artistic perspective, Xiao is rendering people more conventionally in terms of both figure and color, said Les Bell, the other artist in the show. In the past, he said, Xiao worked in a "cubistic" space, bending figures and objects and colors to meet the formal needs of the piece.

Bell called Xiao's use of color in these new works "smoldering," and said: "It's a much more complex level of narrative than I've ever seen in his work. ... I'm completely charmed by the drama of these scenes."

Bell also said that "you'd swear he was working from models to get these individual personalities."

But these works come from memory, and Xiao -- a professor at Augustana College -- said that "I sort of turned [auto]biographical for the first time. I always worked with the figure but was usually shy about putting myself there, because you want to be objective about things."


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