John Bell, Jr.
John Bell Jr. (1937 – 2013) was an acclaimed American painter and sculptor whose career spanned nearly fifty years. He is most known for his iconic images of beautiful churches and historically accurate buildings set against the Old West.
Bell was born in 1937, suffering low blood oxygen at birth causing Cerebral Palsy. This meant he would spend a lifetime in wheelchairs and had limited use of his upper extremities, especially his right hand.
In reflecting on his art, it was not uncommon to hear people remark, “his paintings are amazing when you consider his condition.” In actuality, John Bell, Jr. never had to overcome a handicap to utilize his talent as an artist. His art was never “handicapped art” or the art of the handicapped. He was always capable of great art, brilliant art, art that stood on its own. In that sense, he was an able-bodied artist blessed with an abundance of talent, creativity, and the discipline to be successful in his field, or perhaps many other fields as well. This is why he always refused to belong to a “handicapped artist” organization and in his early career there were many. To John Bell, Jr. this was a type of segregation. This doesn’t mean he didn’t care about the issues people with disabilities encounter. To the contrary… he was an activist, for most all of his life. Bell’s activism was part of who he was and what made living in this region better. His art though, would enhance all our lives and create his lasting legacy. – Bill Kropp, III