Painting of the Day

21 Feb

Getaway Car - Michael Bell

Getaway Car. by Michael Bell (born 1971). Oil on canvas, 2008-9.

Notes from

In “Ticket to Ride” Michael Bell created a cinematic painting series as a journey through one woman’s harrowing search for redemption, only nothing inspires redemption quite like revenge.

“Getaway Car” is the fifth of nine large-format mixed-media paintings that range from emotionally-driven portraits as allegories reminiscent of dramatic film-stills to dark, ambiguous hotel room scenes and metropolitan landscapes on 60″ X 60″ canvases overlaid with mixed-media subway maps painted into the background of each work.

Bell’s narrative strategy is for the viewer to question how much of Ticket to Ride is just a dream, and how much is rooted in reality. Its major movement is the journey taken by an Italian Femme Fetale that begins on a New York City subway platform awaiting her metaphorical “train” and her journey continues — painting by painting — like a roller coaster ride through her mind.

Getaway Car follows our Italian Femme Fetale into an Off-Duty Taxi at night (Getaway Car) with the artist using himself as a model in the mirror self-portrait.  Rips and tears into the canvas also represent psychological rips in the characters’ psyche.

My comments:

Even when artists don’t make self-portraits, an artist can’t help but let at least some of their personality come through the finished artwork. When artists do paint self-portraits, that self-expression is elaborated further. Since the artist has now directly put himself into this narrative series of paintings, it makes me wonder how much of this story expresses the artist’s life or identity. Because although many artists are quite egotistical and/or arrogant, I don’t think they make self-portraits without seriously thinking about it. In the PAFA women artists exhibition I visited a few weeks ago, their section of the show on self-portraits noted that many artists say that they make self-portraits only because it allows them to save money on a model and it’s more convenient. While artists are certainly often poor and could use the saved money, I suspect that sometimes they choose to make self-portraits because they feel compelled to express certain aspects of themselves at certain times.

So how does the artist play into this narrative, because the image demands that we have an explanation for the large human face that watches both the viewer and the getaway car. Does the face as a character in the narrative know what the woman did? Is it supposed to be some sort of metaphor for God, watching everyone? Or is the artist just relating himself to the woman character, because he has gone through what she went through emotionally or literally?

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