I make art that is convivial- that “lives with.” I work with many humans, species (plant and animal), places and histories. I see this practice as an eye-opener and relationship-builder. I hope to make art that points us from the Anthropocene to the Symbiocene- to an era of living with each other in recognition of the complex ecologies of which we are part.
My approach values accessibility, generosity, humor and collaboration. I work in public spaces, with groups of people, with institutions and in varied locations. In my process I emphasize playfulness alongside a depth of research.
Vaughn Bell (she/they) is an artist focusing on the complexities and paradoxes of human interactions with places, natural forces and other species. At the moment she is particularly interested in plant ecology and plant communities, kelp forests and shellfish in the waters of the coastal Pacific Northwest of the United States, rivers and streams in urban areas, and climate change adaptation and resilience in multi-species worlds.
Recent exhibitions have included installations in Zurich, Krakow, Brussels, Buenos Aires, and Paris. In 2021 her large-scale installations Plantscapes were featured at Kew Gardens in London- an exhibition three years in the making. In addition to exhibiting works at museums and institutions, she often works in the public realm on artworks rooted in local communities and ecologies. Vaughn has created commissions for Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, the Edith Russ Site for New Media Art in Oldenburg, Germany, the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education in Philadelphia, the Brightwater Wastewater Treatment Plant in King County, WA, the Hermitage of San Bartolomeo in Abruzzo, Italy, and many others.
Vaughn was commissioned to create a Public Art Master Plan for Seattle Public Utilities Drainage and Wastewater, which was a work of community engagement, research and collaboration over a two-year period. Vaughn continues to work with SPU on the Ship Canal Water Quality Project. Vaughn worked as staff artist in the Seattle Department of Transportation on integrating public art into transportation infrastructure. She continues to work on integrating art into infrastructure, especially in drainage, wastewater, and the right-of-way.
Vaughn’s work has been featured in Artnews, Afterimage, Arcade Journal, and Public Art Review as well as numerous other publications. Vaughn is a part-time faculty in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at the University of Washington, Tacoma. Her collaborative teaching includes projects such as Watershed Puyallup.
Vaughn received her MFA from the Studio for Inter-related Media at Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston, MA and her undergraduate degree from Brown University in Providence, RI. Vaughn comes from a childhood spent in Tidewater Virginia and the Northeast United States, with forays to be with family in the American Midwest. She now lives and works in the watersheds of Longfellow Creek and the Duwamish River, where they meet salt water/Puget Sound/the Salish Sea, on the Unceded Ancestral Lands of the dxʷdəwʔabš (Duwamish) people in Seattle, Washington, USA.
Geffen, A., Rosenthal, A., Fremantle, C., and Rahmani, A., Eds., Ecoart in Action: Activities, Case Studies and Provocations for Classroom and Community, New Village Press, 2022
"Art in a climate emergency" [Public Art] magazine, South Korea, March 2020
Perine, Drew, "All the Rivers in the World," Tacoma News Tribune, July 9, 2019
Potocka, Maia Anna, Ed., Nature in Art, Museum of Contemporary Art in Krakow, 2019
Spayde, Jon, “Vaughn Bell’s Portable Works” Public Art Review, Issue 54, Spring/Summer 2016
Brown, Andrew, Art and Ecology Now, Thames and Hudson, 2014
Moyer, Tylene and Glenn Harper, The New Earthwork: Art, Action, Agency, ISC Press, 2012
Denis-Morel, Barbara, Écosystèmes: Biodiversité et Art Contemporain, Publications d’Université de Provence, Aix-en-Provence, France, 2010
Clark-Langager, Sarah and William Deitrich, Critical Messages: Contemporary Northwest Artists on the Environment, Western Washington University, University of Washington Press, 2010
Frock, Christian L., "The Green Museum", Art Ltd., Mar/Apr 2010, pp.36-39
Himmelsbach, Sabine, Ed. Landscape 2.0, Edith Russ Site for Media Art, Oldenburg, Germany, 2009
Fenner, Liesel, "Pocket Change," Public Art Review, Issue 40, spring/summer 2009
Wolff, Rachel, "Turning Over a New Leaf", Artnews, April 2009, pp. 88-95
Guay, Abigail, "Land Developments", Arcade Journal 27.03, Spring 2009, pp.6-7
Markonish, Denise, Ed., Badlands, New Horizons in Landscape, North Adams, MA: MassMOCA and Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2008
Chase, Alisia G., "Toxic Slurry and Pond Scum," Afterimage: The Journal of Media Arts and Cultural Criticism, September/October 2008, Vol. 36, No. 2, pp. 27-28