It’s easy to get lost in Laura Bell’s ornate ink and watercolor ecosystems. Bell is fascinated by the fraught interactions between humans and other species. She creates detailed, black-and-white drawings of animals, with a pop of paint to define their natural habitats. Then, she uses tweezers to meticulously apply tiny pieces of Bristol and paper cutouts to create a three-dimensional effect. She said her affinity for working with paper comes from her father, who was a printer.
“Like most kids, I liked to draw,” Bell recalls. “My dad would bring home lots of paper, so we always had stacks of paper and tablets around the house.”
Bell, who grew up in Seattle, studied printmaking and earned an MFA before moving to Atlanta in 2000 with her husband, a photographer and mixed-media artist. Through the Hambidge Center, the pair collaborated on a temporary installation at Colony Square called The Untamed Parlor, which blended her affinity for Victorian opulence and his urban photography and sculpture. At her home studio in Kirkwood, nature books are stacked on her drafting table and a decorative wallpaper pattern she designed features deer, possums, and other animals commonly found in urban and suburban environments.
In The Harbingers, dozens of paper honeybees buzz around a hive in an intricately layered collage. Another piece, Eastern Indigo, depicts the endangered snake of the same name, winding around its endangered habitat, the longleaf pine tree. Both species are native to Georgia and are disappearing due to development and deforestation.
A cross-country road trip three years ago ignited Bell’s penchant for drawing and painting vulnerable species. Her daughter was two years old when she and her husband bought a 1961 Shasta camper (which now serves as a backyard conversation starter) and took off across the country.
“Our journey, and our interactions with the flora and fauna we encountered, was a very important experience for my family,” says Bell, who teaches art at Kennesaw State University and the Art Institute of Atlanta. “It fueled my concerns for the environmental impact humans are having on the planet and the world that my daughter is inheriting. It also increased my admiration for the adaptability of the natural world and the strength and persistence of nature to continue to adapt and thrive.”
Bell, whose small pieces start at $75, is represented by Whitespace Gallery, where she will have a solo exhibition next year.
This article appears in our Spring 2019 issue of Atlanta Magazine’s HOME.