Artist John Bell transforms nature’s relics into captivating bird sculptures for ArtScene Kortman exhibit

Rockford native John Bell sees inspiration for his work in nature’s fragments such as fallen tree branches, driftwood, or an abandoned wasp nest. Natural relics that he discovers become the found ingredients for creating unusual and captivating sculptures of birds.
Bell’s sculptures along with his evocative paintings will be featured in his solo exhibition, “John’s Birds” opening in the Kortman Gallery, Downtown Rockford (ArtScene weekend).
The unusual shapes and the colorful enhancements of Bell’s natural finds add to the eccentric characteristics of his sculptural birds giving them a sense of motion and fascination. The same sensibility in Bell’s sculptures can also be seen in his almost abstract paintings.
“I think of myself as a figurative artist whose work depicts birds as verbs rather than nouns,” says Bell. “While I always begin with a suggestive stick or particularly evocative brushstroke, the finished sculptures and paintings end up caring very little for my initial intentions. I choose to describe their own bodily limits and define their own space by pacing out the edges of their territory on the canvas or pedestal.”
   Bell, a Rockford native, shows his artwork in park districts, natural history museums, and the bed of his pick-up truck, primarily in the Midwest. He currently lives and works in St. Paul, Minnesota, with his wife, Alanna, two dogs, and cat.
“I hope my work can serve as a small reminder that life does not proceed rationally— it constantly reinvents itself, bubbling over any container that we try to put around it,” said Bell.
 Gallery director, Doc Slafkosky says this is third exhibition Bell has presented in the Kortman Gallery.
“John has shown his intriguing art with us in 2008 and 2012,” said Slafkosky. “His first show in our gallery was with his twin sister, Katie, who is also a successful artist now living in Brooklyn. The “John’s Birds” show follow’s his mom’s exhibit, “Silk Scenes” by Sarah Bell in the Kortman Gallery. It’s wonderful to see this much creativity and talent in one family!”
“John’s Birds” featuring sculptures & paintings by John Bell will open with receptions on  April 19th & 20th, Friday, 5 to 9pm & Saturday, 4 to 9m. upstairs in the Kortman Gallery, 107 North Main Street in Downtown Rockford. His exhibit will run through June 30th. J.R. Kortman Center for Design and Kortman Gallery are open Tuesday through Friday, 11am to 6pm and Saturdays, 11am to 5pm. 
The opening event and gallery are free and open to the public. For more information visit or phone 815-968-0123.

Rockford watercolor artist Sarah Bell creates wearable paintings for Kortman Gallery Exhibition…February 2-April 13, 2024

Sarah Bell has been a creative force in the art world in the Rockford area since the early 1970’s. She was not only an art educator with the Rockford Public Schools, but also has shown her elegant watercolor paintings in exhibitions throughout the region.
On Friday, February 2nd, Bell will present an exhibition of her new paintings titled “Silk Scenes” opening in the Kortman Gallery. However, these paintings are not her characteristic watercolors on paper, but created with colorful dyes on silk, culminating in captivating images on scarves.
“Even though my scarves are suitable for framing,” says Bell, “I really like to see them as wearable paintings on silk fabrics that are flowing and interactive.”
Since her background is watercolor, creating images on fabric was a straightforward transformation in technique for Bell.
“These paintings on silk are a natural transition for me,” said Bell.  “Applying silk dye to fabric does the same as wet paper, the dyes spread across the surface in the same manner. I begin with white fabric, draw lines using a liquid resist called gutta. The liquid dries and then acts as dams to hold the color in specific places.”
The result is amazing imagery on a one of a kind scarf that is not only an exciting fashion accessory, but a remarkable work of art.
“We are exhibiting the scarves on the gallery walls as we would traditional paintings,” says Kortman Gallery director Doc Slafkosky. “However, they are unmounted and unframed, allowing the viewer a chance to have not only a visual experience, but tactile interaction with the silk fabrics. Sarah created them with the idea that they are works of art that would be worn.”
“Silk Scenes” featuring paintings on silk by Sarah Bell opening reception is Friday, February 2nd from, 5:30 to 9pm upstairs in the Kortman Gallery, 107 North Main Street in Downtown Rockford. Her exhibit will run through April 13th. J.R. Kortman Center for Design and Kortman Gallery are open Tuesday through Friday, 11am to 6pm and Saturdays, 11am to 5pm. 

The opening event and gallery are free and open to the public. For more information visit phone 815-968-0123. 

J.R. Kortman open 7 days a week in Decmber until Christmas: Mo-Fr 11-6, Sa 11-5, Su 1-5

Two Downtown Rockford historic buildings which will going under transformative renovation have bee selected as this years new ornaments added to the Rockford Landmark Ornament collection at J.R. Kortman Cents for Design at 107 North Main Street.
    The Iconic Building (formerly the Rockford News Tower) and the Times Theater are now part this of unique collection of hand painted ornaments that have been created for J.R. Kortman of local landmarks since 1997.
    “Both the Iconic Building and the Times Theater have exciting proposed plans to be reenergised into venues that will be great entertainment and cultural assets to our Downtown that can be enjoyed by residents and visitors alike,” said Doc Slafkosky, co-owner at J.R. Kortman.  ‘We thought this was a perfect time to recognize these two Art Deco inspired landmarks.”
    Other recent additions to the Landmark Collection include the Elks Lodge, the Embassy Suites Hotel, Coronado Theatre and the Rockford Armory. All are on Main Street and are official Registered National Landmark.
    Alexander Liberman’s “Symbol” sculpture in Sinnissippi Park along the river is by far the best selling ornament of all other buildings and places that have been made into ornaments since we started commissioning them back in 1997, said Slafkosky.  “It really has become Rockford’s definitive landmark!”
    Rockford Landmark Ornament Collection also includes the Prairie Street Brewhouse, East and West High Schools, St. Anthony Church, two views of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Laurent House, a special edition of Memorial Hall, the Beattie Park Gazebo, the Faust Landmark Building, the “Y” Log Lodge, Burpee Natural History Museum, Anderson Gardens, and Midway Theater Building.
       In addition to the Swedish Historical Society’s Erlander Home, other historic houses in the collection include the  “Limestone Mansion,” home to the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois, and the “Cobblestone House,” located at 2127 Broadway, one of Rockford’s oldest houses.    
    All the Landmark ornament images are individually hand-painted on the inside of a glass sphere, utilizing an ancient Chinese technique originally applied to “snuff” bottles. Each collectable ornament is a miniature work of art.