Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Artist Feature 5: Joan Belmar

Pictured Above: (left) Duplex and Concentric Green, 2007, mixed media on plywood, 21 x 25 in and (right) Duplex I, 2007, mixed media on plywood, 21 x 25 in

This week's Artist Feature (posted earlier than usual, due to the Thanksgiving Holiday), takes a closer look at Chilean-born, Washington DC based collage artist Joan (pronounced "zhoh-AHN") Belmar. Belmar’s work might be unfamiliar to some NKG visitors, as he does not yet have a page on our website, but his work is certainly not to be overlooked. He started out with paintings, but in recent years has moved towards abstract collage. Though one might see echoes of OP Art and minimalist qualities in his body of work, Belmar's mixed media collages are one-of-a-kind. They are a reflection of the inner workings of his spirit, and do not imitate the work of anyone else: he is his own person, with a unique voice.

Belmar places strips of colored mylar placed under the glass of a plywood frame, fashioned into curvilinear lines of various shapes and sizes; some slightly more representational than others. There are usually no more than 4 hues represented simultaneously. The compositions resemble the 3-dimensional depictions of the human body sometimes found in modern science textbooks. His use of modern materials, such as plastic, acetate, mylar and glass, creates optical illusions. Viewing these works allows one's curiosity to leap out, to question the purpose of his art and to be able to reach in and physically feel the materials in order to fully grasp the concept of each collage. There is also a deep sense of nostalgia connected to Belmar's collages that urge the viewers to take a deeper look at their own lives in light of his art. The somewhat uncomfortable, tingly sensation never dies, giving the works an air of mystery.

One current work, strongly influenced by Anish Kapoor's sculpture at the Hirshhorn of a bisected egg painted blue, tests our eyes and our ability to perceive the things around us. His constant exploration of circles (specifically with mandalas) helps us realize the importance of constantly accessing deeper into the levels consciousness. The idea reminds us that life is not perfect, and that we as humans are all in this together. Belmar creates worlds in his art where some things are clear, others translucent and others ambiguous. His interpretation is that these differences in clarity make life's journey more interesting.

Prior to moving to the United States in 1999, Belmar lived and experienced what he calls "multiple lives" in both Spain and his native Chile. His response to the events of his life are reflected in his artwork, which he describes using words such as "alienation" and "disconnectedness". Through his daring concentric collages, Belmar succeeds not only in examining critical social structures, but in reflecting the psychology of those who struggle within them, including, himself. His work reads like an autobiography, making himself completely vulnerable to the masses and allowing us to respond in light of our own life experiences. This is what the circle of life is all about.

Three of Joan Belmar's works (including the two pictured in this entry) will be on display AND for sale at our Third Annual Attainable Art show. Please join us for our open house on December 1, 2007 from 4-7pm. Till next week, I hope you ALL have a happy Thanksgiving holiday!

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