Tag Archives: Brooklyn Artist

Inside the Artist’s studio with Jill Bell

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Hi. I’m Jill Bell.  As an non-sporty kid growing up in suburban Newark, Delaware, I took my first ceramics class at age 6.  From the start I loved everything about clay. From the dusty, damp earthy smell of the studio to being able to make tangible objects from the ideas in my kid brain.  As I got older, I tried other mediums but found ceramics was how I best expressed myself and my love of clay stuck.

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I received a BFA from Moore College of Art & Design and an MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University. Upon finishing graduate school, I lived in Maine for 9 months as a Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts winter resident. It was there, frustrated with building larger sculptural pieces with the local clay and having them crack, I decided to change things up. I was  inspired by a chowder bowl project we did with the local community and began making bowls and cups of my own.

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My cups and bowls are formed pretty much the same way any kid would have been taught to do it day 1 of their first ceramics class. Roll a slab. Score and slip it and stick it together. Roll another piece. Score and slip that and stick it to the bottom. You’ve got yourself a cup.

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With my sculptures I shy away from shiny. I much prefer surfaces that are textured, with a dry or matte finish. I achieve this through multi-firing a variety of under-glazes and different oxide washes. In the case of my cups and mugs, I’ll use a white glaze on the inside and a commercial clear on the outside to create a more finished look.

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For almost 10 years now I have been a member of Clayworks on Columbia, an amazing group studio space located in the Carrol Gardens neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY. Started by Deborah McDermott and several other ceramic artists 20 years ago (we  just celebrated our 20th anniversary), the studio consists of a collection of ceramic artists of varying ages, backgrounds, styles and experience. There is a true community spirit amongst the members and students at Clayworks and belonging to a studio space where  everyone so readily supports, inspires and respects one another has been immeasurable.

I have a full time job and a family so I’m only able to get to my studio a few times a week. When I’m there, I’m there to WORK. That said, studio time is also my podcast time. I’m not ashamed to admit that I love and listen to almost exclusively,  podcasts about the paranormal, conspiracy theories and UFOs. I know what you’re thinking, “tin foil hat?” but I was a kid of the 80’s.  I grew up with a healthy fear of Santanists, TV shows like In Search of… with Leonard Nimoy and ransacking the local library for anything I could get my hands on about witchcraft, Bigfoot and alien abductions. Today’s world feels crazier then ever. My studio time is a buffer from all that, somewhere I can go to escape. When I’m there, I like to be able to immerse myself in the things that make me happy.

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Instagram: jillmarleahbell_ceramics


Jill Bell is one of 44 artists included in the 4th annual The Cup, The Mug exhibition on the second floor at Main Street Arts, a national juried exhibition of drinking vessels. Work from the exhibition can be previewed and purchased through the gallery’s online shop. The Cup, The Mug runs through December 14, 2019.

Inside the Artist’s studio with Adriano Valeri

Me in the studio

Me in the studio

My name is Adriano Valeri, and I’m participating in Main Street Arts show de/composition!

I was born in Milan, Italy, and when I was eight years old my family relocated to Quincy, MA, a working class city south of Boston. As a birthday present one year, my parents enrolled me in an after school art class held in the basement of a frame shop. It was a great way to bond with other young artists and helped me adjust to my new environment. The teacher was an academically trained portrait painter. She was very affectionate with the kids, but also held us to a high standard. She taught us to use acrylic and oil paints, which I still favor to this day. Overall, I feel the experience was fundamental to my development as an artist.

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My studio space

After graduating from a county vocational high school where I had specialized in arborculture, I choose to return to Italy and to further my education in the arts. I was accepted to the State Academy of Arts in Venice and spent the next 10 years studying and working both there and in the surrounding region. I learned to be more inquisitive and intellectually engaged as an artist. Although I have stuck with traditional techniques such as oil on canvas, it’s important for me that the paintings acknowledge critical issues of our time and to ensure the medium remains fresh and surprising.

After having completed my undergraduate and masters degree, in addition to several artists residencies, I opted to move to New York City and to further my career in the United States. I’ve lived in NYC for fours years now, working on my paintings in Brooklyn. My studio is a spacious drywall cubicle with a large table and some small desks. There’s a window that overlooks a busy highway and some empty lots and the whole floor is occupied by artists and craftspeople. Inside I like to find a balance between creative messiness and impractical clutter. On the tables, paper plates crusted in oil paints vie for space with sketches and photographs, while the walls are thronged with completed paintings.

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View from the studio

As a child, painting and drawing was a way for me to express my fascination with animals and wild places. As an adult, I chose to paint subjects drawn from everyday experiences with the urban environment. Plants, construction material, feral animals, litter. We live in a globalized and rapidly homogenizing world, and I want to make paintings which can resonate with people across the globe.

I think we as a species have never before been as psychologically disconnected from the land we inhabit. The production of food and consumer goods is internationalized and largely automated. Internal and international migration, displacement for economic reasons or from social and natural calamities,  and the evolution of our mentality and social patterns of behavior contribute to a massive distancing from the organic process which occur around us. 

What I’m really interested in is bringing the viewer’s focus to  the land we inhabit. I’m not interested in making work that is purely documentary — I’m interested in how these marginal spaces teem with unintended interactions that result from our massive presence as a species, so I’ve developed a personal narrative style to convey that. I love how trees can absorb and deform a chain-link fence. It reminds me of the incessant action of biology, this weak force that is constantly at work everywhere, and is assimilating everything we shed.

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The painting “Belgian Planters” which is currently on view in de/composition at Main Street Arts

I’m excited to have been selected for the show de/composition at Main Street Arts! Since this is a recurring theme that I acknowledge  in my painting, it was exciting to see how the other participating artists approach this topic in different media and from different perspectives and practices.

You can find more information about me and images of my work at adrianovaleri.com


Adriano Valeri  is one of 31 artists featured in the national juried exhibition de/composition at Main Street Arts. Work from the exhibition can be previewed and purchased through the gallery’s online shopde/composition runs through June 28, 2019.

Meet the Artist in Residence: Renee Valenti

Renee Valenti, artist in residence at Main Street Arts during the month of October 2017, will working on a series of abstract paintings and immersing herself in art history books during her residency. We asked Renee a few questions about her artwork and studio practice: 

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Renee Valenti

Q: Tell us a little bit about your background.
I’m originally from a town right outside of New Haven, CT but I’ve been living in Brooklyn for the greater part of the past fifteen years. I’ve been making visual art for the past ten, after making a switch out of performing art and theater. I decided to make the change and went to Pratt for my undergrad and finished my masters last year from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s low-residency program. I feel that I still often draw from storytelling, the theatrical, or cinematic in my work; and I often like to work in series until something is finished for me.

"fuckin, fuck", oil on canvas, 2017

Renee Valenti: “fuckin, fuck”, oil on canvas, 2017

Q: How would you describe your work?
Painting is the largest part of my studio practice and I also do a lot of photography. Most of the time I would take the photos that I was using for my figure paintings, as well. My painting had primarily been figurative or the spaces people occupy, but then last year I started turning toward abstraction. I just couldn’t carry the heaviness in the narratives that were in the paintings from 2015-16 and I also just didn’t have any ideas in my head! I was feeling mentally spent but also just needed to get back into the paint. So one day just started making without the photo imagery. However, then another narrative started emerging for me within these abstract paintings; which still very much have a place of body within them.

My photography has been a continued investigation of portraits of friends, bikers, communities, and empty hotel rooms. I started driving to nearby towns and staying in hotels while living briefly in the mid-west in 2014. As a way to combat the solitude I was experiencing while living there, I started to photograph these spaces—investigating the comfort within transient places devoid of personal memory. Recently, I started a project of landscape photos down Route 66.

Images by Renee Valenti: The Chateau Royale, Lake Geneva,WI (left) Photo 9; (right) Photo 8: ghosts of ashtrays and whiskeys

Image by Renee Valenti: "Gas station, entering New Mexico—off Route 66", digital photo, 2016

Image by Renee Valenti: “Gas station, entering New Mexico—off Route 66″, digital photo, 2016

Q: What is your process for creating a work or art?
That’s a big question and it varies. Sometimes I watch a lot of movies and that inspires me aesthetically; filmmakers like David Lynch, Wong Kar Wai, Fellini, and Pedro Almodóvar. Usually it takes me a minute to do all the background work before beginning a new series. Whether that’s going to the library to do research on a photo project or walking around the city or being or getting into a head space to feel out what the inspiration for the paintings is/are. Sometimes it’s just walking in the woods a lot. I need meditative time for sure. But then once it takes off I can kind of hit the ground running after that until a stop comes and then it maybe things need a minute to refresh.

Q: What is the most useful tool in your studio?
I’m going to say my speakers, or my phone speakers. I always have something on, whether it’s music or a podcast, or talk radio or something. That kind of gets me going or keeps me going. You spend a lot of time alone in your studio too, so it breaks up your own voice or lets me get deeper into it within the making.

Q: What type of music do you listen to? How does music affect your artwork?
Everything from Beethoven to Best Coast to Led Zeppelin, to Santigold. It runs the gamut.

"White Noise", oil on canvas, 2016

“White Noise”, oil on canvas, 2016

Q: Where are your favorite places to see artwork?
Out in the world. I feel like some of the best art is all around us. Then Museums and galleries of course, depending on the show. The one thing about living in New York is that a lot comes through there, so you get to see a lot of great work up close and in person.

Q: What are your goals for this residency?
I plan on working on the series of abstract paintings that have been in process. I’m also planning on just bringing a lot of art history books and digging into those. I’m really looking forward to having a whole month to work there.

"Winter", oil on canvas, 2017

“Winter”, oil on canvas, 2017

Q: What’s next for you?
We’ll see! I’m looking for an exhibition space for these paintings sometime next year and to complete my Route 66 project. That’s the immediate future, art-wise.

Q: Where else can we find you?
http://reneevalenti.com/home.html
https://www.instagram.com/photoslag/
https://www.facebook.com/renee.valenti.9


Renee is teaching a workshop on Saturday, October 14 from 12 to 3 p.m. at Main Street Arts. Her Paint As Material worksop will examine the versatility of paint with a focus on experimentation within the medium. Sign up on our website to reserve your spot!

 

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Anne Muntges

Anne’s artwork is on view in “Trying to Understand the World: Artwork by Anne Muntges and Sylvia Taylor”. The exhibition runs from January 14 2017–February 17, 2017. Her work is available for purchase in our Online Shop: store.mainstreetartsgallery.com


Anne Muntges Artist Extraordinaire

I am obsessed with drawing. I doodle, make marks, and slap line after line down on paper and board. Drawing is the way in which I see the world and understand myself within it.

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In general, when developing work, I have focus on the home as a theme. In earlier works this would mean recreating the space I physically occupied. Often that meant reflecting upon houses I lived in through drawings that explored the possibilities of what was and what could be. In Buffalo, where I began these works, it was easy to find crazy ornate homes to explore and occupy. My life was interior, and I spent a lot of time indoors. The work was fitting to the place I found myself in!

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That definition has grown over the last year or two though, as I have found myself traveling more for residencies and projects. My practice was also greatly impacted by moving to Brooklyn in January of 2016. Rather than finding myself in a constant indoor space to reflect in, like I had in Buffalo, I wander around and explore.

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The drawings for the show Trying to Understand the World are a reflection of me figuring out my new home. These drawings helped me to understand the space I live in more closely than I ever could have imagined.


Stop by Main Street Arts to see “Trying to Understand the World: Artwork by Anne Muntges and Sylvia Taylor”. The exhibition runs through February 17, 2017. Anne’s work is available for purchase in our online shop: store.mainstreetartsgallery.com. Visit Anne’s website at www.annemuntges.com.

Take a look at our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post by painter Victoria Brzustowicz.