Emerson Bell

Emerson Bell 1931 - 2006 Emerson Bell was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 1931. He grew up in this area and worked with his uncle at odd jobs including decorating tasks in local churches. They painted interiors, worked on altarpieces, and made banners. On weekends he would help his uncle paint signs. While there were no other artists in his family, there were musicians and singers. A deeply religious atmosphere in Bell’s home gave impetus to later images in his prints. His mother encouraged him to try his hand at whatever he was interested in, including art. When he was twenty-one he executed a huge mural for a church. From 1953 to 1955 Bell served in the army and while stationed in South Korea, visited the villages where he became interested in Eastern Art, religion, and philosophy which would affect his sculpture and prints. Returning to the United States Bell took instruction from John Payne National College and Charles Wilson Fine Arts Academy in Chicago. In 1972 he studied at Southern University under Alvin Batiste. By 1974 Bell had had major exhibitions in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Washington, D.C., and in Alabama. Bell’s drawings and prints reflect his sculptural background. He mixed his color ink for printing from natural pigments with water as opposed to oil. He experimented with color and relief embossed effects in every print. The main subject in his prints is women. There are a couple of prints reminiscent of Egyptian princesses complete with authentic gold leaf. There are prints of dancers seen from behind capturing the motion of arabesque. Bell also crafted still lifes: bowls of fruit and vases on a table. This technically innovative approach to printmaking has given the still life a vitality that is lost to most artists today. All of Bell’s images have an exotic even primitive aura partly inspired by the tropical mysterious environs of Louisiana. Bell’s spiritual life coincided with his work. He felt God was an important part of not only his art but every artist’s work. The religious is an important and dominant theme in his work. His sculpture and prints suggest idols in mosaic of ancient times. His work hints at the medieval and classical, yet it is very modern. Emerson Bell passed away on April 13, 2006 at the age of 74. SPECIAL ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Louisiana Room, L.S.U. Middleton Library; Louisiana State Library; Charles Reinike; Caroline Durieux; Charles Hunt, Broussard Galleries, Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Art History Area, School of Art, L.S.U.; Library of Congress
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