A towering glass ladder, Yucatan-inspired sculptures and several staircases leading to nowhere make up only a small part of a 50-year survey of art at the Richmond Art Center showcasing artist Bella Feldman’s work.
As part of the RAC’s Fall Exhibit, Feldman takes viewers through a timeline of events with references from her up bringing, world travels and the horrors of war and ethnic genocide. The work takes on dark topics, but does so playfully. For example, Feldman’s “War Toy” series juxtaposes the grandness and intrigue of lethal weapon with their ability to destroy.
“When I visited her studio in Oakland, right then I asked myself, why isn’t this work in our gallery,” said Emily Anderson, curator for the art center.
The exhibit showcases 85 artworks ranging from Feldman’s work as a graduate student at San Jose State University to her most recent piece completed just months ago. Throughout Feldman has explored seemingly contradictory ideas.
“One reoccurring theme in Bella’s work is a certain sense of instability,” said JP Long, who has been the assistant to Feldman for over a decade.
This theme is apparent in several of her pieces exhibited in the art center. “Jacob’s Ladder” showcases a towering ladder with glass stairs resting on circus-like steel wheels. Four freestanding staircases situated closely together, lead to nowhere. Nearby, an assortment of pottery stands like sculptures inspired by the pyramids in Yucatan, Mexico – instead of solid foundations Feldman rounds off the edges, destabilizing the objects.
A child of Jewish emigrants from Poland, she was born and raised in New York City and attended Harlem High School of Music and Art and Queens College before moving to California. Feldman has been teaching in colleges all over the Bay Area for over 40 years and has a studio in Oakland where she produces her self-proclaimed “anxious objects.”
“We live in a very anxious world. I myself was very affected by my childhood, listening to radio and hearing Hitler’s speeches. That really informed my vision of the world and nothing that has happened in the twentieth or the twenty-first century has changed that,” said Feldman, in a recent interview with KQED.
The exhibit will be at the Richmond Art Center until November 15th. Admission is free and open to the public.