Joseph Bellacera | A review of his work by David Wiley | Scene4 Magazine  October 2015

David Wiley

I met Joe Bellacera at the studio of a mutual friend who had a large etching press. We were part of a small group of artists doing monotypes, one of many media Joe has pursued during his career. In the years since then I have observed the changes and progressions in Joe’s art, which have added up to a fascinating artistic odyssey.


From the very beginning I recognized in Joe Bellacera an artist so devoted and so committed with every fiber of being to his work that even when he spoke about matters unrelated to art I had the feeling that for him they were not unrelated. There is a prismatic quality about Bellacera that gives one the impression he is constantly gathering images, reflected or otherwise, from everywhere. He is always peering deeply and intensely into the great variety of things, wherein he discovers the patterns and designs that point him toward the soul of the universe.




His explorations take a more physical turn from time to time. Bellacera has been scuba diving in order to see how the sunlight illuminates the water and its colorful fish and corals. He has jumped out of a plane in order to find out what it’s like to be alone in space. Now and then he goes up in a small plane piloted by a friend so that he can photograph the interesting and unusual configurations in the agricultural landscape below; and using these images he produces a series of paintings that reveal the unseen beauties of our world.




Although Joe derives his inspiration from many quarters, he does, like all artists, have his historical influences. One of the most important of these is J.M.W. Turner, and as I have watched Joe’s painting evolve over the years I have been often reminded that what Ruskin said of Turner, “His paint brush is the mind’s tongue, tasting and probing into the rock heart of things,” applies to Bellacera as well. During a period when he was painting skyscapes, I observed that these visions of light and color in space could also be visions of something more solid, like marble. Bellacera was tasting and probing in both directions. He has a strong sense of space in matter, and of matter in space. His visual milieu contains many hints of new dimensions. He creates cosmic puzzles, and then gives us the wherewithal to work them. He creates a mystery, and then gives us clues to its solution. It is all enigmatic and compelling, such that in all of the paintings and sculptures there is an appeal to expand our consciousness, to break away from our long-accepted visual programming and look afresh, without prejudice or preconception, at the wonders around us.




In a recent museum show he entitled Disconnecting the Dots, Bellacera presented an array of unconventional artworks that, among other things, compel us to rethink our precepts of two-dimensional painting. The dots he asks us to reconnect in a new way exist in at least three dimensions. They invite us to enter and explore with him these fantastic worlds he has discovered.




In The Spirit of the Forms Elie Faure suggested that the highest order of art is art that launches a journey. There is always the quest, the search for beauty or perfection or truth. For Bellacera these things are more likely to be found through a gestalt approach to life and art. Another of Joe’s favorites is Kandinsky, with whom he shares an interest in such things as synesthesia, the sound and smell of things, the taste of color, the magic of the forms, especially the magic of the sphere. Accordingly, Bellacera has created a number of spheres, which he has painted to look somewhat like gaseous planets, not uninviting, and possibly habitable.




Sometimes he creates a grouping of square canvases, arranged in a conventionally symmetrical way. But there is nothing conventional about them. The viewer is challenged on many levels. There is poetry in the way these separate and equal and individual paintings talk to each other. Music is found in the way we put the pieces of the puzzle together. There is nothing self -consciously avant-garde about this art, it is a natural extension of everything Joe has done. It may be art that strikes out into unexplored territory; but, as mentioned before, Bellacera belongs to the race of explorers.




Jean Costeau once remarked that Picasso had taught us a new way to see beauty. For this to happen, the voice in the paintings has to be both powerful and enchanting. The paintings must be imbued with energy. The paintings that change our ways of perception need to be dynamic, and meditative enough to transport us into them and allow us to stay long enough to let the seeds of illumination take root. Bellacera’s paintings are of this kind. They require us to experience them with all the intelligence, instinct, imagination, wit, wonder, wisdom and understanding we possess. And the rewards are well worth the effort.




Bellacera has an exotic ancestry, which includes Basque and Sicilian blood. He does have a Mediterranean air about him, and loves his gardens, which he speaks about with almost as much passion as he does about art. Of course gardening is really just another art form. Joe and his wife, Paula, who is also a very fine artist, have fruit trees, vegetables, and an attractive desert garden, which may have to do with their affinity for the Southwest. (Both Joe and Paula exhibit in galleries in Santa Fe and Arizona.) On one side of their garden is a wooden fence covered with gourds that Joe will eventually turn into sculptures so mystifying and appealing it will be difficult to stop looking at them. Their house, gardens and studios are filled with artworks, but it is in the studios that we obtain the best sense of what is happening. Upon entering Joe’s studio, the visitor is immediately overwhelmed by the enormity of his output and the strong sense of his energy pervading the room. In addition, there are samples of work from various periods, and as a result of this “tasting” it becomes apparent once again that Bellacera believes in his instincts and is willing to let them take him in whatever direction seems fertile and fruitful. And each new area of exploration deserves a large amount work. It must be treated thoroughly and from many angles.




Anyone who spends a little time with Joe Bellacera walks away an altered person. If one is fortunate enough to spend at least a part of that time in Joe’s studio, the effect is magnified. Perhaps because in the studio Bellacera feels closer to the center of his universe.


Joseph Bellacera’s work can be viewed at his website:

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Scene4 Magazine - David Wiley

David Wiley, painter-poet, exhibits throughout
California and abroad. A book about his work,
The Poetry of Color, is in progress.
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