Jerry Belland’s paintings are on view in a solo exhibition at Anderson Art Center in Kenosha through June 5th. Belland’s work is visually and conceptually complex. Using figures, narrative, and written words, Belland makes art about the big issues: vanity, manipulation, cruelty, desire, and aging, He is not a naturalist, rather Belland uses exaggerated color, distorted spaces, unrealistic settings, and caricatured figures to express ideas.
Belland’s images represent morality plays with timeless scripts and recognizable props, characters, and settings. True Talent (below) for example, features a young woman dressed as a 1950s pinup gazing into a mirror and dreaming about the Broadway career promised to her by a lecherous producer as her parents harangue her for her ingratitude. It’s a classic story, as apt for the age of Betty Grable as it is in the age of American Idol.
The Devil is Calling (below) shows a pretty girl in stockings and a nighty chattering happily with her suitor on the telephone. Although she can’t see him, the devil (complete with red cape and pointy horns) is on the other end of the line. God hovers high above the action—telephone receiver in hand—listening in on the call.
Like the German Expressionists Max Beckmann and George Grosz whose work so influences him, Belland believes artists should engage the moral and social ills of their day and he does so with equal measure of humor and seriousness.