Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Recent NPR interview with Laura Kennedy

Artist Katie Bell stood smiling among the collection of materials she’d gathered around town for her exhibition at University Galleries. It looks like a construction site, but the materials are on the verge of being formed into the visual landscape of a deconstructed painting.  
“I was inspired by the gallery space having this interesting angled ceiling, almost like a wedge shape," said Bell. "So far, I’ve found a few columns, scraps of drywall, scraps of laminate countertops, aluminum that I think goes on a roof, different concrete objects.” 
All these materials will come together in a site-specific exhibition entitled “Standing Arrangement,” on view at the Galleries through Aug. 4. Although her background is in painting, Bell explained that her work actually touches on multiple categories, including sculpture. How Bell assembles the materials is based on her interest in abstract painting.

Jessica Bingham (l) is the curator of Katie Bell's (r) exhibition. On Bell's first day in town, they worked in tandem collecting items for her show.
“I lay the materials out like you would a painting pallet,” said Bell. “What are the colors I’m about to work with, what are their forms. So, it’s like making a painting. I’m laying things out like a blown-up pallet and looking down, bird’s eye view and figuring out, where are these things going to go, how are they going to connect to each other.”  
“I come from an interest in abstract painting and how color and shapes can transform a space, and how that can connect a viewer to this abstract landscape.”  
“Standing Arrangement” is curated by Jessica Bingham, who assisted Bell in collecting items for the exhibition.  

This column is one of the items collected for Katie Bell's exhibition.
“Around the area we’ve had a few different tours with creative people who were willing to work with us and show us their spaces,” explained Bingham. “Their homes, construction sites. It was about four or five hours of looking through objects and then bringing them back to the gallery and playing around with what we had here, looking at colors, shapes and scale and how things will look in the space.” 
Being surrounded by bits and pieces of construction materials comes naturally to Katie Bell, who grew up in a vintage Victorian home that was under constant renovation. Construction and deconstruction became a natural part of her artistic vocabulary. 
“It’s been this lifelong project of renovating and restoring the house,” Bell revealed. “We started in the upstairs apartment of the house and eventually moved into the full house. For me it was always about thinking about things as rooms. 'Oh, don’t go in that room; it’s totally dusty. This one’s OK to go into.’ And thinking about how spaces can unfold in that way and how walls create space and how rooms can transform a space.” 
The objects Bell collects come with their own built-in history that she utilizes in the installation.  
“I’m thinking about how I can transform them into part of my world, but obviously this history comes with them. So, I’m hoping that the viewer at this show has this kind of abstract landscape that they’re walking through, almost like surveying damage after this unusual storm. It’s a storm in a painting language.” 
“It’s an abstracted explosion of sorts.”  
Bell’s exhibition is site-specific. Once the show closes, the installations are taken down, never to be reassembled again. Bell admitted that initially she was sad to see her work pulled apart, but now she embraces the fact that the installations will be no more. 
“Working site-specifically has opened up my work in such a great way. It allows me to work as large as I want. I can really think bigger than I could before when I was trying to think about how to ship something or how to move it.” 
“I take really good documentation and video and I make miniature scale models of every show that I’ve produced. So, I have a keepsake, of sorts, at the studio. I get more excited about being able to do it, so the thought that it comes down, it’s okay because I can make another one.” 
“Standing Arrangement” is up at the University Galleries through Aug. 4. A selection of Bell’s paintings will be concurrently on view at ISU’s Milner Library.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Feature in Whitewall Magazine

This is the last week to see Katie Bells “A Place for Everything and Everything in Its Place” at Smack Mellon in DUMBO, Brooklyn. The Brooklyn-based artist has created a site-specific installation, on view through April 21, within the industrial space featuring 24-foot ceilings and prominent steel columns.
Bell creates assemblages, sculptural paintings, and immersive landscapes from discarded building and design material—old cabinets, hot tub shells, scavenged flooring, and more. Choosing material for color and shape, she plays between the natural and man-made world. Pastels, faux-finishes, and marbled surfaces come together to create new narratives based on location.
At Smack Mellon, the artist found inspiration in the neighborhood of DUMBO—the scale of the buildings, streets, and bridges; as well as the East River and the flotsam that washes ashore. A few weeks before the opening, we spoke with Bell about the show.
Katie Bell
Katie Bell’s “A Place for Everything and Everything in Its Place” 
Photo by Etienne Frossard
Courtesy of Smack Mellon

WHITEWALL: Since your shows are normally site-specific in nature, where did you begin for “A Place for Everything and Everything in Its Place”?
KATIE BELL: I’m often flying somewhere, finding all the material in that location, and building a work on site. I haven’t’ had a big solo show in New York in a long time. The original proposal was one large, site-specific work in Smack Mellon’s main space. It used to be an old power plant and has all of this architectural visual language that is almost a sculpture in itself. There are something like 20 steel columns. So the building became the armature for the piece.
Katie Bell
Katie Bell’s “A Place for Everything and Everything in Its Place” 
Photo by Etienne Frossard
Courtesy of Smack Mellon
It unfolded from there from the material I’ve been gathering. I’ve been using things like sections of hot tubs as these abstracted, knowable but unknowable organic but so manmade forms. I was also thinking about the East River and the flotsam and junk that floats up there—these foreign objects that have this warn, other worldly quality; like they’ve been through something. It was about, how do I create a landscape-like sculpture that also feels like it’s part of the building?
Katie Bell
Courtesy of Anna Bauer.
WW: You often use man-made material that is posing as something natural—like a marbled hot tub shell, for instance. There exists this contrast between color, design, and source. How does color draw you to a material?
KB: A lot of the things I’m working with come from some sort of interior—old countertops or flooring—these pleasing, nice to be around environments. I’m interested in the duality of a soft palette mixed with the large-scale and harsh nature of the material itself; something that is heavy and big and falling apart.
Katie Bell
Katie Bell’s “A Place for Everything and Everything in Its Place” 
Photo by Etienne Frossard
Courtesy of Smack Mellon
My mom picks paint colors for people’s homes in Rockford, Illinois where I grew up, for places like Nissan dealerships and dentist offices. So she has paint charts around the house. I come from a painting background, and when I started working with sculptural material, I didn’t know where to start with color. So I asked her for her paint charts for different clients, which were house paint colors. It’s unfolded from there, where I’m pretty drawn to a pleasing interior design aesthetic, which gets questioned by how things are then put together.
WW: You said that usually you find materials in the location of the exhibition. Is that your preference or is it done out of necessity?  
KB: It started as a necessity. I wanted to work large and the easiest way to do that was to fly and make it rather than ship something. But then I was pleasantly surprised by how many possibilities it opened up, not knowing what you would find in a place and seeing how materials and palette changed from Miami to Chicago. And I would get to know a place by looking for materials, going to salvage yards, calling people from Craigslist, going to their homes…
Katie Bell
Courtesy of the artist.
WW: How does the narrative then reveal itself as you source material and put it together on site?
KB: For this show I’m making some objects—painting built panels of different materials. I was recently at the Lord & Taylor that closed and got all these really weird plastic fake boulders. There’s going to be large scale columns in addition to the columns in the space. Overall I want it to be a strange abstracted landscape that the viewer encounters, something unknowable that unfolds the longer you look at it.
Katie Bell
Katie Bell’s “A Place for Everything and Everything in Its Place” 
Photo by Etienne Frossard
Courtesy of Smack Mellon


Monday, February 25, 2019


Poster will be available at my show at Smack Mellon opening March 9th

Upcoming Solo Show, Smack Mellon Brooklyn NY

Monday, December 11, 2017

Sprechgesang Institute

Working on a collaborative project with some amazing makers/inventors/artists/scientists/musicians/etc:

Sprechgesang Institute (S.I.) is a research-based platform for artists1 working in an in-between language of two or more disciplines. We believe in the ability of the gap2 between genres to produce fresh and innovative perspectives, offering room to breathe without boundaries, space to improvise and to question3 conventions. We host regular lectures, workshops, and dinners to draw connections and facilitate discussion of in-between languages4.
What is Sprechgesang?: 
Sprechgesang refers to a vocal technique halfway between song and spoken word. Sprechgesang is what occurs when actions are too grand to merely talk about but too fragile to sing; when the heart moves faster than the mouth and pitched syllables are more descriptive than words.  Expanding the definition beyond the voice, sprechgesang more generally describes a search for a new mode of hybrid-communication in the space between two disciplines or techniques.  This concept makes up the root system of S.I.
1. artist: someone who makes things5
2. gap: transitional space, a breath, a pause, a blink of silence that registers as substance, a striking resemblance to something familiar but not-yet named, an uncanny overlap
3. to question: why? why not? what if? how? if not now, when? how come? what happens when...? is it possible to...? why can't we...?
4. in-between languages: mash-ups of two or more modes of making things. The result could be, for instance: an omelette with its contents organized as an archaeological site OR a song cycle composed in the key of common household appliances OR a late-night radio program approached from the perspective of rare or endangered plant species.
5. things: objects, writings, sounds, philosophies, concepts, gestures, spaces, materials, solutions, equations, designs, collections, strategies, sculptures, instruments, plays, dinners, diners, films, insults, poems, socks, jokes, houses, parking lots, pies, discoveries, decisions, episodes, molds, casts, perfumes, shapes, architecture, frameworks, formats, examinations, directions, examinations, inquires, diagnosis, investigations, murals, pictures, photographs, portraits, crafts, entertainment, maps, apps, games, ads, pamphlets, dictionaries, atlases, manuals, directories, almanacs, gardens, reservations, appointments, boats, deals, arguments, rafts, snacks, excuses, exercise routines, sonnets, apologies, mistakes, announcements, cocktails, appetizers, candles, albums, office supplies, jingles, one-acts, birthday cakes, lampshades, alternative measuring devices, counter tops, periodicals, proclamations, arrangements, etc. etc. etc.