Authored by Carolyn Kosten
The sculpture, Birds, resides at the top of the Leonia Public Library’s rear stairs where, on a busy day, hundreds of people pass by. The Leonia Public Library welcomes all people, no matter their background. Likewise, St. John’s University’s mission is to respect all people; this includes sharing our gifts with others (St. John’s University 2019). The creator of Birds, Enid Bell Palanchian, excluded none when displaying her work, implying that art is not only for the wealthy.
Enid Bell was born in London, England in 1904, passing away in 1994 in Englewood, NJ. (Smithsonian American Art Museum, n.d.). Enid Bell studied at Glasgow School of Art (York 1997, 234-35) and also at St. John’s School of Art in London (Fahy 1933). Bell was awarded the first prize at the Montclair Art Museum in 1933 (Fahy 1933), later winning the Gold Medal Diploma of the Paris Exposition in 1937 (York 1997, 234-35). A professor at the Newark School of Industrial and Fine Arts for 24 years, Bell led an extraordinary life as a sculptor, author, and illustrator (Enid Bell Palanchian, n.d.). Bell created Birds from hydrocal relief, donating the piece to the Leonia Public Library in 1979 (Enid Bell Palanchian, n.d.). In the late 1800s through the mid-1900s, Leonia was a noted art colony, celebrating arts ever since (Leonia Arts 2019).
Enid Bell explored other forms of art, despite no formal training. Bell’s first stone piece was created for her mother’s grave, as a personal tribute (Bell 1965, 34). For Bell, it was important to avoid limiting herself to one type of media, learning about others such as bronze, plaster, terra cotta, wood, and oil paints (Fahy 1933). Enid Bell worked to achieve excellence, just as St. John’s University encourages its students (St. John’s University 2019). Her work is varied and extraordinary, ranging from textiles, metalwork, bone and ivory carvings, to ceramics (Lenson 1968).
Enid Bell generously donated her art to public libraries (Enid Bell Palanchian, n.d.). Her work is also displayed in colleges, cultural institutions, post offices, and hospitals (AskART 2000). Her art has been featured in libraries like the Newark, New Jersey Main Public Library (Lenson 1968). The Leonia Public Library held two exhibitions of Enid Bell’s work in May 1977 and in March 1983 (Enid Bell Palanchian, n.d.). The versatility of her talent was presented at the exhibit as well as her piece Birds (The Bergen News 1983).
Enid Bell’s art was not only created for private commissions and sales for the wealthy but was also displayed in public institutions and museums around the country (Enid Bell Palanchian, n.d.). Enid Bell’s work is incredible because it is made beautifully and also holds deeper meaning. By donating her work to public institutions, Enid made it known that art should be enjoyed by all people, not just an elite few.
AskART. 2000. “Biography: Enid Diack (Palanchian) Bell.” http://www.askart.com/artist_bio/Enid_Diack_Palanchian_ Bell/101691/Enid_Diack_Palanchian_Bell.aspx#.
Bell, Enid. 1965. “My Wood Sculpture.” American Artist 29, no. 3 (March): 34-64. http://enidbell.com/publicity/1965_american_artist.pdf.
Bell (Palanchian), Enid. Birds. 1979. Hydrocal relief. Leonia Public Library, New Jersey.
The Bergen News. 1983. “Two Phases of Art.” The Bergen News 34, no. 13 (March). http://enidbell.com/publicity/1983_0330_Bergen%20News.jpg.
Enid Bell Palanchian. n.d. “Enid Bell Palanchian: American Sculptor (1904-1994).” Accessed October 10, 2019. http://enidbell.com/index.htm.
Fahy, Agnes. 1933. “Women Who Win.” Newark Ledger, 1933. http://enidbell.com/publicity/1933_Newark%20Ledger.jpg.
Lenson, Michael. 1968. “Newark Library Show.” Newark Evening News, September 15, 1968. http://enidbell.com/publicity/1968_0915_newark%20evening%20news.jpg.
Leonia Arts. 2019. “Leonia’s Artistic Legacy.” https://leoniaarts.org/?sermons=leonias-artistic-legacy.
Smithsonian American Art Museum. n.d. “Enid Bell.” Accessed October 10, 2019. https://americanart.si.edu/artist/enid-bell-325.
St. John’s University. 2019. “Our Mission.” https://www.stjohns.edu/about/history-and-facts/our-mission.
York, Hildreth. 1997. “Enid Bell, 1904.” In Past and Promise: Lives of New Jersey Women, edited by Joan Burstyn, 234-35. New Jersey: Syracuse University Press.