hazel Belvo

  Hazel Belvo, Resurrection: Roots, 2013-14, acrylic on canvas, 54 in. x 50 in.

How would you describe the work that you do?

I’m a painter. . . . Terry Becker and I had this conversation and she said, “You’re a metaphorical painter,” . . . and I think that’s true . . . because of working in so many different series. But, basically they all come from the same place. Personal history has a lot to do with it, interest in mythology and religion, . . . politics and what’s happening in the world around me. . . . [I am] mostly interested in [the] earth, the world, the environment. . . . I’m interested in systems.

Are there ways in which you intend your work to challenge the viewer?

I hope it does. I hope that they are accessible in a way that people can enter into them and maybe discover things about the paintings . . . my voice . . . but also things about themselves. . . . I have, at one time in my life, really questioned the value of making a mark on a piece of paper. . . . The end result of that questioning was . . . that’s what I do. . . . Some people knit, . . . some people write, . . . I make marks on a piece of paper or canvas or on a wall. . . . And then, I thought, if only one person understands something that I said, that was okay, . . . that was successful.

Is there something you are currently working on that you are particularly excited about?

Belvo with Witch Tree etching

Several things . . . . I have a body of work . . . RESURRECTION . . . of large scale paintings exploring woman's existence in our current culture. These paintings are metaphors about the circumstances that still exist in women’s lives even though we have worked tirelessly [to better these circumstances] since the first wave of feminism in the early 1900s. We are facing extreme possibilities that we women may not have control our own bodies. I want the work to counteract the destructive language on the airwaves, [the] hate language directed toward women and the men who speak out for us, and to affirm our strength, joy and ability to survive.

Also, I just did this whole series of etchings this summer of the [Witch] tree. I was very excited to be working in the print shop, . . . I had never done that before. . . . Another thing that I’ve been working on is drawing with music. . . . It’s listening and reacting to the patterns that the music makes.

What have been the greatest challenges to your art career and how do you navigate them?

In the studio

I think the biggest challenge is living your life, making a living and trying to be authentic. I think that’s the biggest challenge . . . not trying to be, but having that as a primary value in your life and following that. I am very much interested in the spirituality of art. . . . It can be trivialized so easily in all those self-help books out there, . . . but that’s not what it’s about. . . . For me, it’s making my internal life external, so it’s visible. That’s the challenge. And keeping it authentic.

What advice has influenced you or your art making?

I would say the very first advice and encouragement I got was from my mother. She was a very important and perfect mother for me because she listened. . . . She always let me know that I could do anything that wanted to do . . . you can do it. That’s the best advice I had. . . . When I was living in New York, one of my friends was Louise Nevelson, she was like a mentor to me. . . . When we first met each other . . . we were talking about having been married young . . . and she just looked at me with her penetrating eyes and said, “How did you feel when you walked down the aisle?” And I said, “I felt like I wanted to run away.” And she said, “I can see that you’re telling the truth. The truth is really what it’s all about.” So, that’s one piece of advice that has carried me a long way.

How do you know when you have been successful?

I think that, for me, in terms of defining what I think is successful, is that over the years . . . I’ve always had to be mindful about that authenticity and where it comes from. . . . I feel successful in my life’s work if I can maintain that kind of authenticity. A lot of times when I was studying, as an early painter, my male professors would say that my work doesn’t hang together, that I was all over the board. . . . And it was so demeaning and I was distraught about it. . . . Then, in the mid-1960s when a lot of this happened and I was working in the feminist movement in New York, I went to Washington, DC for a march and I went to the Smithsonian where they had a show of Edvard Munch. . . . I didn’t know what to expect, but it was organized and curated [in a way] that made it so crystal clear what his life’s work was about. . . . It wasn’t all the same, he had several different bodies of work included in the seven galleries . . . so you could see, all the time, he was thinking about all these things and it just had to be curated in the right way for people to see it. . . . [This exhibition] was so affirming to me because I knew then how I could present myself. I also knew that I didn’t have to adhere to anybody else’s standards.

Why did you choose to pursue the life of a professional artist?

It’s all interwoven with who I am, so I don’t know that I could be any different. I know that I have some limitations as a “professional artist” in the art world today because I have never been interested in being a part of the art market. . . . We used to call it the “meat market,” it’s like the chopping block, which was kind of casual way for the male artists that I knew to state “putting yourself out there.” . . . It was an exciting world and I learned so much, but I also saw the tragedy of it. . . . I was really more interested in the art itself and not the market. . . . I have a great admiration for professionally trained artists. . . . Not the fleeting sort of fame, but the real depths that art gives us access to.

                              Hazel Belvo, Resurrection: Healing Love, 2012-15, acrylic on canvas, 60 in. x 122 in.

How do you identify yourself as a feminist artist?

Hazel Belvo

Everything I do.

More information available here