It was while dating and getting to know one another that California artists Gloria and Bill Bell discovered they shared family history deeply rooted in small copper mining town of Miami, Arizona. Although the two of them had not grown up here, Bill’s grandfather, Jim Bell had been renowned fiddle player for dances at Bullion Plaza and worked in the mines, and Gloria’s grandfather and great grandfather Apodach both had worked in mines throughout Morenci, Miami and Superior and raised families here.
It was this connection with Miami which sparked their first conversation, says Gloria smiling.
“In fact, one of our first trips, after getting married was to visit Miami and see the places our grandparents had told us about.”
Recently they fulfilled a dream to own a small second-home in Miami where GMTimes caught up with them at their home on Chisholm street to talk with Gloria about her art and ‘coming back home.’
Standing in the doorway of their little home on Chisholm Street, in Miami, Gloria Bell ushers me into her living room which is undergoing a form of benign/organic remodeling.
She and husband, Bill, purchased the home in 2004, as a second “space” to both hang their collection of overflow art and book collection, and breathe in the community of their great grandparents who worked and raised families in the area.
Their little “house” in Miami was an old Miner’s Hotel at one point with no stairway connecting the lower and upper floors. The Hotel had no plumbing. Showers were outside. And miners came and went by the back stairs. The place is steeped in local history. It just no heating and cooling. Still, Gloria and Bill, smile when they talk about the place and obviously consider it a home-away-from-home.It has everything they need. Wall space for artwork. And storage space for boxes of things they have yet to find a place for. Not to forget… a 2nd floor porch with two rocking chairs to catch the evening breezes that occasionally waft through the canyon.
“We actually bought it for the space,” says Bill. Pointing to the walls, stripped of old wallboard and standing bare with just plaster and lathe. Art is hanging from every corner and every hallway. “We love buying art…even when we really couldn’t afford it, we would find money for a piece of art.” Gloria goes on to explain,
“We love to buy others art. In fact when we first came up here, we purchased one of Diana Tunis’s pieces. Wonderful piece,” says Gloria.
Growing up in east LA surrounded by a culture which celebrates the dead, and throws parties for the spirits of those have passed to the other side, Gloria says it was the art, the passion, and the people which came alive during the celebrations of Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) which fueled her imagination as a child, and passion as an artist .
Today, she honors the ancient tradition of culture and family, in her rich paintings depicting the Day of the Dead, and her work has been accepted into the Tucson Museum of Art and the Heard Museum as well as the Latin American Museum of Art in LA.
“It was an honor for me to get accepted into these places and find myself placed next to Diego Rivera.”
Bell’s artwork consists mostly of skeletons we want to hug, and colors which vibrate with warmth and vibrancy. Her figures each have expressions which make us smile. “Even if they don’t have flesh, and creases around the eyes, they are all different.
They all have personality.
Like her most popular piece showing a fetching skeleton couple with the note: “I would kiss you, if I only had lips.”
“Most people don’t understand the culture’s celebration of the dead, but once they do, people develop a taste for it.
“The art,” she says, ” is growing as more people are being exposed to the meaning behind the celebration.”
Writer, photographer. Passionate foodie, lover of good books and storytelling. Lives in Globe. Plays in the historic district. Travels when possible.