Belle Massey has always felt the need to create outside of herself. Whether by paint or clay the artist has long retained the will and skill to express herself and those around her through the arts. Currently showing her collection, “Coming Into My Own,” at the Eubie Blake Nation Jazz Institute and Culture Center, Massey has garnered much acclaim for her innovative portraits of friends, loved ones, and celebrities, past and present. “I’d like to think that there’s an anointing on what I do,” said Massey, glancing at one of oil paintings on display. “The more I do it the more I learn from it. It’s a developing relationship now as opposed to a learned skill.”

Though Massey says her son and daughter are major inspirations for her works, she cites her connection with a higher power as her reason for continuing to pursue and develop her style and technique. “I spend a lot of time spiritually, reading the word of God and I like to paint,” said the artist who first took an interest in the arts at age seven. Massey has captured everything from the grace of Whitney Houston in her prime to the innocence of nieces and nephews and in 2012 she hopes to challenge herself to create more abstract art pieces. A Baltimore native, Massey fell in love with ceramic art during her teen years but later earned her baccalaureate degree in Visual Illustration from the Maryland Institute College of Art and Design (MICA). While at MICA, Massey never focused on portraiture, but a large part of her career has been dedicated to translating the human soul onto canvas effortlessly.

“It’s always a joy to see any artist that I have worked with ten and fifteen years ago still be vital and vibrant in their craft-still have a love for their craft and still practicing their craft,” said Dr. Leslie King Hammond, who has watched Massey transform from student to seasoned artist over the better part of three decades.

“So often life has so many distractions and demands. It’s very easy to stop or fade away from the thing that gave you that reason to live, and Belle has been tenacious. She has fiercely held on to her love of making art. You see it in her work and in her subjects, and in the community that comes to help her celebrate the body of work.”

Massey’s current exhibition began on the first day of the month and will be open for visitors to experience until March 31. Though honored to show her work in any space, the Eubie Blake Center is no stranger to Massey as she was invited to show a different solo collection, “Dare to Imagine,” at the same location in 2009. Massey’s work was also shown at the World Trade Center located in the Baltimore Inner Harbor in 2008, as well as several smaller showings in galleries throughout Maryland.

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Alexis Taylor

AFRO Staff Writer