Musée Limited Editions: Patti "Bella Luca" Bartelstein
By Jenna Butler
The Musée Limited Edition Print Sale is still on! All prints are taken from the Billboard Creative 2019, curated by our editor-in-chief Andrea Blanch. To see the rest of the prints currently on sale, shop here.
Jenna Butler: What was the inspiration for titling your piece “All Are Welcome”?
Bella Luca: The inspiration would be what is going on in our culture today. In my view, no matter what color, gender, race or what shape or size you are, you’re welcome. Equality matters.
Jenna: What was the creative process behind that print?
Bella: I work from creating within my own headspace and then I figure out how to put that into a tangible piece of art. This piece was created by the glass structure that I worked on in Desert X, Palm Springs. When you’re looking at “All Are Welcome,” you are looking at a glass structure, which is a piece of public art. In Desert X, it was an all-mirrored sculpted house in the middle of the dessert for people to go in and out of. As I was there, and when I was finished with the installation, I looked at that and was like this is what this means--welcoming all people. I am sure there were some unconscious influences from our society and our culture today that brought me to that end point, this piece of art.
Jenna: How did you first get into art and photography?
Bella: I was in high school. I was in the wet dark room, in the late 70’s, and taking a photography class when I was 16 or 17 years old. I fell in love with the magic of the dark room and how you can create an image out of a piece of paper by dipping it into chemicals. I thought that was really cool. I was really drawn to art and the camera was my first tool to create things. I work with other mediums as well. I do mixed media, but I believe that my relationship with seeing things through a lens influences and shapes my work and who I am as a person, regardless of what materials I use.
Jenna: You founded the Project Room. Could you tell us more about the organization?
Bella: The Project Room was founded in Chicago in 2011. I found it and originally it was a brick-and-mortar gallery/exhibition space. The whole idea around it was important to me at that time. It was about collaborating with artists from all over, on a global level and supporting them, exposing their work, bringing in not just visual artists, but also writers and scientists. It was really important to me to overlap the fine arts with the applied arts and sciences and put it under one small roof. It was a small gallery space but it was a really great place to come and engage and just open up a quality dialogue to learn through the arts in so many different ways.
Jenna: You have great expertise on program direction and management. Has that influenced the way you pursue your photography?
Bella: I think that anyone that I connect with and get to develop further dialogue with is always an influence in many different ways. I learn from who I connect with. You can do other things, try different things. That's what I believe.
Jenna: What was the story behind going under the pseudonym of Bella Luca?
Bella: The story is that my birth name is a very long name. I love my last name Bartelstein, but it is long and always a mouthful to say and spell. Bella Luca is italian. Bella means “beautiful” and Luca was derived from the word “light.” I studied in Italy and I have a big heart for it. I studied photography and art history when I was in school abroad there for a year. I have a piece of me there and it just made sense. I liked using those words and signing my name as Bella Luca. So I was searching for a pen-name and once I homed in on Bella Luca, I didn’t go back.