Sunday, August 1, 2010

Q&A: Artist Bela Fidel on 'World as Ground Zero'

by Jessica Testa The Arizona Republic Jul. 27, 2010 10:48 AM

Bela Fidel's "The World as Ground Zero" explores the aftermath of terrorism.

After the September 11 attacks, Brazilian painter Bela Fidel wanted to show Americans they weren't alone.

Terrorism plagues the entire world, Fidel said, and people are not divided by their country's borders. She set out to capture this message in paint. Six years later, "The World as Ground Zero" was finished.

Through July, Valley residents can see the three dimensional collage at North Scottsdale's El Pedregal Festival Marketplace, at the Boulders Resort.

The grim piece is assembled with images, text, metal sheets and burnt canvas. Fidel's shades of gray, black and white give the piece a historic feeling, while the bright red accents remind the viewer terrorism is alive in the world.

The Republic spoke with Fidel about the politically-charged piece and her artistic process.

Question: What inspired the piece?

Answer: I connect this painting to Picasso's "Guernica." Guernica was a village in Spain attacked by the Nazis on a busy weekday. I see a parallel between that and what terrorists do all over the world today. "Guernica" depicts pain and destruction and violence. That's what I wanted to do in my piece, so I brought in images from Picasso.

Q: So your piece is like a modern version of "Guernica?"

A: I mixed his images with images of 9/11 and the attacks on the train in Spain a few years later, as well as a variety of attacks in Israel. I manipulated the images to put them in a different context. The piece shows terrorism from all over the world, not just one country.

Q: What attracted you to terrorism as a subject matter?

A: We eat and drink terrorism a lot. It's everywhere. After 9/11, I wanted as an artist to explain what I was feeling. I attempted it with oils, but I wasn't happy and I felt I didn't have the means to express what I was feeling. Years passed and I learned different techniques. In 2007, I was finally fully capable to express in retrospect what we all feel today.

Q: How does the piece differ from your other work?

A: Most of my other work does not show human suffering. It is not political. Everything I do has an explanation behind it. This is the first painting I did where so many forces were involved: human pain, political turmoil. Unfortunately, this painting is still very timely even though I've had it since 2007. I hope it becomes obsolete real quick.

Q: How do viewers react to the piece?

A: When I've shown it in my studio, people read the text from the painting with a lot of concentration. This piece really was a labor of love. I've been painting for 37 years, but this was the first painting I was working so much on, I forgot to eat.

Q: What is the message you hope viewers will take away from the piece?

A: The piece shows terrorism in the Untied States and in Spain and in Israel. It shows that as humans, we are all the same. Politics should not divide countries. These people have died as people, not Americans or Israelis or Spaniards. Terrorism unites us all.

Q&A: Artist Bela Fidel on 'World as Ground Zero'

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