Aisha Tandiwe Bell creates unique form of portraiture

Aisha Tandiwe Bell has taken her unique form of portraiture to new places in 2020. Utilizing composites of her mental archive of gazes and gestures to create realistic portraits and personifications of ceramic heads, the bodies she depicts are simultaneously trapped or painted with Indian ink on wood panels. Some of the heads are adorned with vertical strips of paint reminiscent of African scarification, masks and face painting. 

Welancora Gallery in Brooklyn presented this new body of work late in 2020 during an exhibition titled “AKIN.” “AKIN” was Aisha Tandiwe Bell second solo exhibition at Welancora.

In keeping with her interest in ideas centered around identity, this work acts as camouflage contemplating the possibility of blending in and disappearing. Symbolically the work also references prison bars and the stripes of the American flag.

She’s also developed a new series of mixed media paintings on wood, large and small scale sculpture and a wooden trap, which expands upon her “Scars, Bars, Stripes and Camouflage” series presented at the gallery in 2017. 

Metallic, copper, silver and gold leaf, are incorporated in the work to illustrate Bell’s interest in value and the desire to consume that which is deemed valuable. Bell’s wooden traps are depicted as comfortable spaces to inhabit, yet they simultaneously serve to illustrate the lure of escapism in all of its forms including consumerism and the comfort found in the unchanged and unchallenged. In drawing upon our shared and intersecting histories, Bell weaves together a coherent picture of the conflicted realities that shape who we are and who we can be. 

Bell theorizes that these works are of the same family. They share the same intentions. They define themselves through sound and space and time. They slip through clear definitions and assumptions. They are layered in shifting multiple fragmented identities. They are washed in metaphor, simile, and duality. Their faces are masks, they masquerade an extension of their spirit. They are both old and new. They are Kin. 

About Aisha Tandiwe Bell 

Aisha Tandiwe Bell received a B.F.A in Painting and Arts Education and a M.S. in Art and Design Education from Pratt. In 2005 she received a NYFA fellowship in Performance Art/Multidisciplinary Work and was a 2006 Skowhegan Fellow. In 2008 she received a M.F.A in Ceramics from Hunter College. Bell’s work has been included in exhibitions at The Harvey Gantt Center in Charlotte, NC, The National Museum of Catholic Art, The Rosa Parks Museum, Edna Manely College in Kingston, Jamaica and the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts. 

In 2018 Bell was among 14 artists commissioned to create permanent works of art for Adjaye Associates’ new electrical switching station in Newark, New Jersey. In 2020 Bell was an artist in residence at Wassaic Project in Wassaic New York. 

The artist lives and works in New York City.

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