About Stephanie Bell May

Painter, Sculptor, Explorer

Stephanie Bell May

Bell May was born in Mexico City in 1973. Her interest in fine art began in the museums of Mexico City, where a rich history of early and mid-20th century artists with strong political motives included Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Tina Modotti and Rufino Tamayo. These influences played out visually in her early work, as she completed a BA in Fine Arts at Pepperdine University. Bell May was awarded an accolade by Joseph Piasentin, named artist of her generation from Pepperdine University. Later Bell May returned to Mexico City and received an MFA in Plastic Arts at Academia de San Carlos. A focus on naïve figuration with a bright, primarily red color pallet defined Bell May’s early work as she explored the female human body and its status as a commodity in Mexico’s history and beyond. Following several years of public exhibition and recognition in and around Mexico City, Bell May returned to an intensely private studio practice for several years of artistic development. During this time, Bell May pursued a new visual result through black and white abstraction and paper mache sculptural figures. She began using photo developers and acrylics in combination with her customary oil paint to pioneer new textures and mark-making possibilities, including fracturing and splintering of the paint on paper. The dark pallet and layers of medium scratched, drizzled and rubbed hint at a subtle but powerful rage underlying Bell May’s second phase of work. Issues of female equality and human rights concerns take forefront in Bell May’s latest work.



Through painting, living, and exploring how we experience life I have realized, that I am perpetually attracted and captivated by the balance between contradictions and counter parts. How seemingly polar forces and dualities are interconnected and give rise to each other, define each other, and only exist in relation to one another. In my paintings I explore this paradoxical phenomena by using the sublimely complicated figure of man and woman, and simplifying it to a smooth continuous line. I use what seem like diametrically opposed forces such as light and dark, brilliant and morose colors, glossy and bristly textures, translucent and opaque surfaces, and integrate the lines of the body into an enigmatic harmony and cohesion of colors and textures. Whether the medium be oil on wood, ink on paper, or chili spices and dirt, each piece is a tense dance between the death or the life of each painting. Sometimes I place dark opaque layers that seem to suffocate the life out of it. Then I will rub or unearth the underlying painting to chance upon a heartbeat. If there is a pulse, it’s a miracle worth investigating. With the placement of each layer and or lines, I don’t seek to replace the previous, but rather integrate it to a perfect balance of ambiguity and clarity. It’s an amorphous journey of intuition that takes on a life of it’s own. And although I am the creator, I am not in complete control of the out come. I vie, gamble, and recover with each piece until an inexplicable magic is revealed to me; like an alchemist who has an accidental encounter with magic.
A través de mi arte, la vida misma, y analizando mis experiencias, he llegado a la conclusión que siempre me ha atraído y cautivado el balance entre contradicciones y contrapartes. Lo improbable que fuerzas polares y dualidades puedan interconectarse para poder surgir. Analizo este fenómeno paradójico utilizando la complicada figura humana del hombre y la mujer, simplificando su figura hasta convertirla en una línea continua. Utilizo fuerzas diametralmente opuestas como el claro- obscuro, colores brillantes y morosos, texturas rasposas y brillantes, superficies translucidas y opacas, integrando las líneas del cuerpo hasta lograr una armonía y cohesion de colores y texturas. El medio puede ser oleo sobre madera, tinta sobre papel, o polvo de chile y tierra. Cada pieza forma parte de una danza tensa entre la vida y la muerte de cada pintura. Algunas veces pongo capas opacas que parecen sofocar la vida de la pintura. Posteriormente le doy una pulida a la superficie de la pintura para que el fondo comience a tener vida. Si logro que la pintura tenga pulso, es un milagro que definitivamente vale la pena investigar. A medida que agrego capas diversas, no busco reponer la anterior, sino integrar el perfecto balance de la ambigüedad y de la claridad. Es un viaje intuitivo y amorfo que cobra su vida propia. Aunque yo sea la creadora de las piezas es impredecible el resultado. Visualizo, juego, y recupero cada pieza hasta que ocurre una magia inexplicable, como un alquimista que tiene un encuentro accidental con la magia.