"World Without Men"

Paintings by Leslie Bell
Kristin Wigley-Fleming Fine Arts Gallery, Center for the Arts
September 16 - October 15, 2010

Leslie Bell

Leslie Bell is a widely exhibited artist and professor of art at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa.  He holds the bachelor of arts degree in art from St. Ambrose University and the master of fine arts in painting from Northern Illinois University.

Bell has received a fellowship in painting from Arts Midwest/NEA, the Special Recognition award for best in painting from the Des Moines Art Center in Iowa Artists, two first prize and purchase awards from the Davenport Museum of Art and grants from the Iowa Arts Council and Quad City Arts.  His work has been included in numerous shows and competitions in Iowa, Illinois, Texas, Connecticut, Georgia, Michigan, Colorado and California.  It is also held by a number of collections, including the Erie Art Museum, Erie, PA, the Figge Art Museum, Davenport, IA, Ohio State University, Athens, OH, and the Society for Contemporary Photography, Kansas City, MO.  Bell is represented by the Moberg Gallery in Des Moines, IA.

In 1946 in the introduction to her book, A Child’s Bouquet of Yesterday, Gerda Vautier hypothesized that “The dreamlike world of our childhood, with all its wonder, trust and newness, may seem to have vanished forever. And yet, in it is perhaps the only reality which men and women everywhere still have in common, still seek to recapture.”

Artist's Statement

"My paintings have always been about wonder, love and belonging. These works focus on Vautier’s strange mobius band of time that connects childhood and adulthood. A child’s admiration for and attention to an adult is returned in kind by the older person’s wonderment at the resilience, resourcefulness and miraculous purity of the child.

Of course not all children are innocent and not all adults are wise enough to appreciate innocence. My characters are predominately good with imperfections. They interest me in a way that those of apple pie purity could not. Their imperfections somehow authenticate their humanity.

In the world of my creation, innocence, courage and childish befuddlement share space with adult strivings and puzzlings. They rub off on each other. The heft and texture of the paint heightens the risk, poetic ambiguity, and erotic charge of the narrative. It also creates a palpable feeling of light.

I use my paintings to explore the continuum from innocence to experience; from confusion to fulfillment; from silence to confession; as well as the distances between acquaintance, friendship, affection and desire. It’s an organic geometry, subject to change as my experience changes.

My characters are in the process of committing themselves to both revision and revelation. The natural settings pit natural immensity against human frailty and dramatize the import of the character’s decisions. In an image like the one of the young girl at the waterfall, an “Everyman” for the 21st century wanders the world not quite sure of where she is but entranced by its complexity and beauty. She’s a pilgrim on her way to the unknowable and proceeds cautiously but bravely in the face of life’s disorder. She characterizes our innate desire to know what can only be sensed; to see what can merely be imagined to hope for relevance in life. Her delight and discomfort at the vast opportunity of being alive is universal."

-Leslie Bell