By: Gail Obenreder
“My inspiration is painting cultural history and learning the untold stories. I hope that my paintings initiate conversations.”
The artist’s journey actually began in childhood for painter Bryant “Tee” Bell, as he watched his father, a skilled commercial artist, design and create works of all types. Though as a young man he had sketched and created cartoons throughout his life, this Emerging Artist Fellow only began painting in his fifties, when “a serious medical condition resulted in unexpected retirement.” Challenged by his wait for a double lung transplant, Bell began a serious artistic practice as a way to cope with his illness.
Now recovered, the Wyoming, Delaware resident works primarily in creative portraiture, finding that his work is “evolving to focus on the disadvantaged and forgotten individuals.” His Fellowship-winning works – like Ms. Santiago, Mack and Chief – are examinations of inclusion and representation painted in a unique style that is both engaging and exploratory of cultural, political, and social issues.
Bell is a native of the First State who grew up in Greenwood, Delaware with his two brothers, and he was in the first graduating class of Woodbridge High School. The artist attended school in Hampton, Virginia, but received Bachelor and MBA degrees from Delaware State University, where he also took studio art classes. He worked for eight years at DSU after a long, successful career in insurance and brokerage, work that enabled him to travel throughout the US and internationally and contributed to the depth of personal perspective in his unique portraits.
As a painter, Bell consistently works to master new mediums, seeking to learn techniques and paint on a larger scale. He exhibits regularly throughout Delaware – frequently at the Mispillion Art League (Milford), at the Biggs Museum of American Art (Dover), and at Camp Rehoboth. He also works to relate music, photography, sculpture, and other mediums to his practice, and he finds that meeting new artists and viewers is especially fruitful and rewarding.
An avid volunteer, Bell energetically supports “people in our communities who are less fortunate” as a member of the Dover Lions Club (for 30 years) and the HUB Club Rotary (for 16 years). He’s also an avid lover of cars, a member of the Delaware Porsche Club and the Del Rods Car Club. Merging these two interests, Bell often utilizes his artwork to promote an annual car, truck, and bike show that raises scholarship funds for Lake Forest and Woodbridge students, an activity that ties him firmly to his former high school.
While the pandemic allowed Bell the opportunity to spend more studio time, he found that it limited his opportunities to travel and meet new colleagues. Now that conditions are opening, Bell hopes to use his award to provide exposure to other “undiscovered” artists and help create a place where their work could be more permanently displayed.
The Division’s Emerging Artist Fellow designation is a clear message to this later-in-life artist that his new career has substance and relevance and that he “needs to continue to grow my artistic skills in all areas. It is a milestone accomplishment for me.”Fellowship Home