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Artist statement


Derrick Bell is a Cincinnati, Ohio native and Oakland based Fine Artist, Educator, Entrepreneur and Philanthropist. He received a BA degree in Studio Art at Morehouse College, Atlanta, Georgia, and a MA degree in Art Education at Mount St. Joseph University, Cincinnati, Ohio.


His work is thought provoking and capable of arousing strong emotions that cut across ethnic, national and generational barriers. The artistic renderings convey a deep sense of emotion, spirituality, dignity, history, strength and grace.  


Bell’s works are inspired by his personal journey through life, music, nature and spiritual beliefs that transcend race and creed. Bell's mission is to impact the world with his creative expressions. It is through this creative energy and passion that he seeks to evoke emotions and motivate the viewer.  


The work is vibrant, colorful, and impactful.  Bell’s use of shape, color, rhythmic patterns, gossamer line, and brilliant storytelling is striking. Realism, Cubism, Abstract Expressionism and Afrocentric iconography is all at play. With the use of geometry, harmonious color compositions and design motifs, he stylistically forges a unique and distinctive statement that has found tremendous resonance with his audience. 


“My ongoing body of work explores constructions-the human family, spirituality and culture. This against more tenuous subjects like inclusion, dignity, consumption, privilege, safety and subjectivity. In addition to the history of Black identity both in the United States and in Western art.” 


In the five series created from 2017-2022 the imperceivable is captured -thoughts, feelings, emotions, the soul and the spirit--The Cursed Crown We Detest (2017), The Dance (2017), Lost Boy Found (2018), Dent De Lion (2020) and Bloodline (2022)- Bell entices the viewer to take a closer look, consequently revealing subtle spiritual messages, allowing purposeful reflection. In each painting and drawing you are seeing the artist’s process of “unpacking” and examining the ideas of human rights, human trafficking, compassion, disability, self-acceptance,  sexuality, communication and love which are universal.


“I create work about how political, social, and cultural challenges that can be turned into calls for action and acts of care and agency. I am particularly taken by the African American culture, with its rich creativity and improvisational zeal.” 


Derrick Bell wants the viewer to question what they know, examine their perspectives on  racism, human trafficking, the wealth gap and more.  He has commented that like a dancer that creates something from the music they hear, he wants the art to be the key, the vehicle the viewer uses to see themselves in a fuller and more humane way-“The work can give the viewer a voice, gives people hope, a way of making meaning in a crazy mixed up world. I am attempting to establish a feeling, usually a feeling of meditation.  I want the paintings to call to you and pull you in.” 

“Since I was a child I knew what I was supposed to do with my life. After some soul searching and a series of serpentine career adventures,  I began to realize that the calling was leading me toward art and a creativity infused life. It’s been quite a journey, but one that I don’t regret for a second. I tend to create multiple works in a series. Doing so allows me to explore a given concept or motif more deeply by addressing it in several works of art. These pieces are sometimes created one after another and sometimes years apart, but they always relate to the same common theme.” 


Materially, the work has been a continued exploration of media ranging from drawing, painting, and sculpture to create a sense of abstraction and splendor, which gives Bell a vehicle to  explore the history of Black identity both in the United States and in Western art. 

Bell says of the work- “The work is not just about content for me, it is also about process-For me painting is both a creative exploration and a lush process. The process begins with preparing the paper or canvas with a ground and then applying paint and even metallic leaf to the surface. I begin to transform the surface with sheer layers of glazed color. Numerous layers are later applied to the surface in an additive and subtractive process, either with a brush, rag or scraper. The forms are created in the moment resulting in an expressive alchemy process. This layering process also adds another dimension of depth to the paintings.”

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