Painting of the Day

23 Feb

Unfinished Business - Michael Bell

Unfinished Business. by Michael Bell (born 1971). Oil on canvas, 2009-2010.

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.

“Unfinished Business” is the sixth 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.

In Unfinished Business we’re taken to the ominous marshes of the New Jersey Meadowlands where the Italian Femme Fetale from Scenes 1, 4 and 5 and the artist (the Taxi Driver from Scene 5) are seen peering into the trunk of the Taxi at us, the viewer.

My comments:

As the narrative develops in this series of paintings, it becomes more ominous, more creepy, and more abstract. This painting is, in my opinion, the creepiest painting in the series, both in its style and in the implications of its narrative. The style of the painting, which I admire because I can’t tell how the artist could have done it, makes the image look as if we’re seeing it through shattered glass. This brings up the question of whether this shattered glass is all over us as the taxi driver and woman look at us in the trunk of the taxi. This makes me wonder why it is us in the trunk of the taxi. It sort of implies that we are the person who has been murdered and that the woman and the taxi driver are now looking at our dead body in the taxi trunk. It’s a very scary twist that reminds me of that movie “The Sixth Sense,” where the protagonist doesn’t understand why he sees dead people and then realizes that he is dead himself.

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