October 2017 Artist Interview
Joan Bell grew up in New York City and attended Adelphi College. There she majored in Art Education and did graduate work in art at NYU. Joan worked as a high school art teacher for the NY City public school system. She left her job there to dedicate herself to painting. Joan later opened a Fashion Jewelry business. Her jewelry was sold in stores throughout the country including Bloomingdales and Henri Bendel in the city. Joan sold her business and became involved with ceramics.
Joan has worked in several ceramic studios in the NYC and now uses the studio at Columbia University Teachers College and studies with Tom Lollar.
Her clay work is shown there at the Macy Art Gallery and she has shown her work at the Phoenix Art Gallery and the New Marlborough Meeting House.
Joan Bell lives with her family in the Bronx and the Berkshires and has two beautiful grandchildren.
At what point in your life did you know that you wanted to become an artist? Did the realization emerge slowly?
I entered college as a Psychology major and during the first week of orientation I remember the Dean of Women saying that this was a chance for us to think about our future lives and study and do whatever we wanted. I changed my major to art. It was all too wonderful to me - and I spent the next four years studying art.
How did you evolve your style and favorite mediums?
I went on to graduate school at NYU in Greenwich Village and also took painting classes at the New School and studied with Minoru Kawabata.
I decided that I wanted to paint on tiles so I went to Parsons School of design to learn how to make tiles. Clay is a seductive material and I couldn't let go of it. I became involved with ceramics then. Also I started to study metal jewelry making and worked with silver and gold.
I worked with different materials, but for me it was all the same. I was making artistic decisions. And I feel all the arts are connected. Actually working with a variety of materials broadens your artistic scope.
What are your time management techniques? Do you have regular working hours...or favorite times to work?
When I had my jewelry business I worked all the time because I had shows to prepare for and orders to fill. Part of the reason I sold the business was that I wanted an opportunity to work in an unpressurized natural time line. At this time I set aside 2 days a week to work with clay.
Do you work on more than one piece at a time, or primarily just on one?
I usually work on one piece at a time. However working with clay teaches you patience-you have to allow the clay to dry slowly-at those times I work on several pieces at once.
What would you say is your biggest influence -- that which keeps you working, regardless of all else, your most steadfast motivation?
Working in art allows me to go beyond myself, to leave this earthly existence, so to speak. It lifts me up and allows me to go deep within at the same time. Those of us who work in the Arts feel lucky to have this in our lives.
Does trying something new and not knowing the rules -- the boundary pushing -- create anxiety or excitement in you? (Or both?)
Being creative means you get to do something that's never been done before-to create something that hasn't existed before-that's the fun and wonder of it all for me.
Do you enjoy having the "duality of both chaos and control" or are you happiest with a set plan?
I never have a plan- perhaps I'll have an idea. In ceramics I let the material lead me. Getting past your material means you’re able to use it without getting bogged down with its limitations. This is always somewhat of a struggle, but it must be done in order to reach an interesting outcome. Whatever I work on has to be interesting to me.
Do you have any projects or events forthcoming?
Yes actually I will be in a fabulous home museum on 148th. The opening is Thursday, October 12, 2017 6-10 PM at MUSEE MAISON 532 WEST 148TH STREET NYC 10031.
Ms Liberty Crying Golden Tears in Memoriam for 911
12 x 9 x 11"
21 x 12 x 4"
15 x 13 x 15"