December 10, 2015

Meet Benjamin Zellmer Bellas – 2015 Fall SOLOS Artist

Benjamin Zellmer Bellas has created a stunning lexicon of conceptual works that speak to each other through performance, poetry, and sculpture.  His works create a conceptual ‘constellation’ which challenges the viewer to navigate the act of viewing with the act of understanding.

The installation has evolved, organically or through human manipulation, since its debut at the opening of the 2015 Fall SOLOS exhibition. His exhibition is entitled Until the brilliance is extinguished.

Benjamin Zellmer Bellas received his B.A. in Studio Arts with minors in Art History and Philosophy from the University of Pittsburgh, and then went on to receive his M.F.A. in Sculpture from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

He has exhibited in galleries and museums around the world, and his work has been featured in publications such as Sculpture Magazine and The Washington Post.

The desired result is an artwork that is greater than the sum of its parts.


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Benjamin Zelmer Bellas, A WHISKEY BARREL IS SILVER-PLATED ONLY ON ITS INTERIOR, [BARREL, SILVER, LAMP, BOOK – sculpture] 2012
In your studio, in life, in your head, in your practice, anywhere: what is your most important/valuable source of inspiration?

find that I am often most inspired by boredom, or put another way by an obsessive engagement with the most ordinary aspects of the everyday.  More often than not these instances are the spark that launches me on my journey to create the works, that become far more complicated.

For instance, the piece in the exhibition that has a necklace spelling out the word “coda” on a fern began by virtue of filling out paperwork in a doctor’s office.  The pen was attached to the clipboard by a small bead-like chain, and as I waited my turn I played with it incessantly.

Eventually, my boredom directed me to see how many different words I could write with the chain in cursive.

What inspired this body of work?/What motivated you to create this body of work?

The large majority of the work contained in this exhibition was created during an extended period of relative seclusion in Vermont.  Clearly many of the works draw upon the material language or resources of the landscape you find there, though conceptually they are more bound to personal narratives that bleed into larger cultural concerns.

…an obsessive engagement with the most ordinary aspects of the everyday.

In three sentences or less, tell us about your process.

My process varies substantially from piece to piece, though I typically focus on three main elements that constitute each of the works.  The visual form, the method of creation, and the associated textual elements are all utilized to create poetic connections or juxtapositions that unfold over the reception of each of these individual components.  The desired result is an artwork that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Benjamin Zellmer Bellas, A TREE IN THE FOREST IS FOUND FRACTURED IN HALF LENGTH-WISE DURING A STORM. AN INDIVIDUAL RETRIEVES THE HALF OF THE TREE THAT IS NO LONGER LIVING AND CARVES A RECESS INTO IT THAT IS ONLY LARGE ENOUGH TO ACCOMMODATE A SMALL STERLING SILVER JEWEL BOX. THE SAME INDIVIDUAL PLACES A DECEASED MILLIPEDE UNDER HIS PILLOW AND GOES TO SLEEP. WHEN HE AWAKENS, HE RETRIEVES THE MILLIPEDE AND PLACES IT INSIDE OF THE WAITING JEWEL BOX, wood, sterling silver, millipede, felt, 2015.
Benjamin Zellmer Bellas, A TREE IN THE FOREST IS FOUND FRACTURED IN HALF LENGTH-WISE DURING A STORM. AN INDIVIDUAL RETRIEVES THE HALF OF THE TREE THAT IS NO LONGER LIVING AND CARVES A RECESS INTO IT THAT IS ONLY LARGE ENOUGH TO ACCOMMODATE A SMALL STERLING SILVER JEWEL BOX. THE SAME INDIVIDUAL PLACES A DECEASED MILLIPEDE UNDER HIS PILLOW AND GOES TO SLEEP. WHEN HE AWAKENS, HE RETRIEVES THE MILLIPEDE AND PLACES IT INSIDE OF THE WAITING JEWEL BOX, wood, sterling silver, millipede, felt, 2015 (detail).

How did you decide when this body of work was finished?

I am going to make a subtle distinction between “finished” and “ready to exhibit.”  I’m not sure I ever really think about my work being finished anymore.

I always reserve the right to go back and rework, retitle, or cannibalize a work for future projects, and many of the works have a life cycle whereby they change over the course of being exhibited.

In terms of deciding when these works were ready to exhibit, that typically happens when I am able to connect the seemingly disparate references I am working with through visual form, process, and associated texts.


Benjamin Zellmer Bellas’ Until the brilliance is extinguished will be on display, along with the rest of the Fall SOLOS exhibitions, until December 20, 2015. The gallery talk on December 12 will feature the other SOLOS artists discussing theirs and Bellas’ work. The event is open and free to the public, so don’t miss it!

An Adventure of Being

Extended to February 11, 2024

Smith & Meyer Galleries
Featured Artists: Vincent Cy Chen, Nicki Cherry, Jeremy Olson, and Stephanie J. Williams

An Adventure of Being explores blurred boundaries, physical breakdown, and states of in-between-ness. The painting, sculpture, and installations included in the exhibition incorporate materials and forms that bring to mind living beings.

2024 Art Classes for Kids, Teens, and Adults!

Register now! Classes begin January 21!

Whether you are giving the gift of creativity this year to a friend or family member, or you plan to set a new year’s resolution to get back into creating, sign up today to secure your spot in one of MoCA’s wonderful programs! From drawing and painting to ceramics and mixed media, you are sure to find an inspiring art class.

Zaq Landsberg: Reclining Liberty

August 5, 2023 - July 28, 2024

Front Lawn
MoCA Arlington and Arlington Public Art are thrilled to co-sponsor the installation of Zaq Landsberg’s celebrated Reclining Liberty on the Museum’s front lawn.

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