The drawings and paintings of Dozier Bell are at once deep evocations of natural environments culled from memory and experience past, and reflections of a life of philosophical inquiry and keen observation that merge in her work as marvels of virtuosity and poignant imagery. Her work is a visual autobiography of a sort, one that recalls generations of a Maine family that worked the land, kept the wilderness at bay, planted tree farms, raised animals, and embraced the nearby sea.
Bell received a Fulbright Fellowship in her thirties and chose to travel in Germany – to study its art, literature, history, philosophy, language – an experience that profoundly informed her thinking and her development as an artist. She was drawn to the concept of Heimsuchung, the seeming contradiction of a transcendent omniscience that is in certain instances a beneficent meeting between the human and the divine, and in others, a visitation of disaster.
Bell’s paintings and intimate, diminutive charcoal drawings (some of which measure as small as 2 x 4 inches) bring to mind 19th-century American painters Albert Pinkham Ryder, R. A. Blakelock, Frederick Church, as well as England’s John Constable. Exacting and deliberate, often mysterious impressions of nature's disquieting, transitory presence, her works comprise a vision of nature that sweeps across vast plains and valleys, ascends into lofty skies, and reaches toward far distant horizons,… The vision often pictures nature at dawn or dusk, its light generally dimmed and pale or momentarily darkened by clouds, its expanse sometimes broken only by a first or last glimpse of the flashing sun, its temper otherwise solemn, even troubled, as if brooding. (1) As Bell remarks in the text written for the catalogue accompanying the exhibition: “Infinitely complex, at once undefended and harsh, welcoming and seemingly impenetrable, this forested, watery place continually shows me the inescapable vulnerability and unknowable forces that inform it, and by extension, us. (2)
Dozier Bell was born in Maine. She graduated magna cum laude from Smith College in 1981 and received her MFA from the University of Pennsylvania in 1986. In addition to her Fulbright Fellowship, Bell has received Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grants in 2003 and 1993, a grant from the Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation in 2009, residencies at both the MacDowell Colony, Peterborough, NH and the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Skowhegan, ME, and in 2014, a Purchase Prize award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York. She lives and works in Waldoboro, ME.
(1) Belz, Carl. “Dozier Bell’s Drawings,” Left Bank Art Blog, February 20, 2014.
(2) Bell, Dozier. Dozier Bell: Recent Paintings and Drawings. New York: Danese/Corey, 2014.