Alexandra Bell is an American multidisciplinary artist. Bell is best known for her series Counternarratives, large scale paste-ups of New York Times articles edited to challenge the presumption of “objectivity” in news media. Using marginalia, annotation, redaction, and revisions to layout and images, Bell exposes the pervasive racial and gender biases embedded in print news media.
Life and education
Bell was born and raised in Chicago. Bell holds a Bachelor of Arts in interdisciplinary studies from the University of Chicago. She also received her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 2013.
Work and critical reception
The works comprising Counternarratives (all dating to 2017) represent Bell’s debut as a visual artist. Though works from the series have since been shown in galleries, museums, and on college campuses, Bell began by pasting her work onto walls in public space on the streets of Brooklyn, New York, in the spirit of paste-up advertisements and graffiti. The first work in the series, A Teenager With Promise, consists of two panels: one shows the New York Times’s front-page profiles of Michael Brown, an unarmed Black teenager, and the white police officer, Darren Wilson, who shot and killed him; Bell has redacted the majority of the text so that only the barebones facts of the incident are left visible, eliminating extraneous details that reflect racial bias. The second panel–Bell’s proposal for how the Times should have reported Brown’s murder–simply shows a portrait of Michael Brown in his graduation cap and gown; Bell has replaced the original headline, “A Teenager Who Was Grappling With Problems and Promise,” with the headline “A Teenager With Promise.” Later works in the series also include inline edits and annotations to New York Times articles about the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017, which resulted in the death of protestor Heather Heyer; the racialized incident involving swimmer Ryan Lochte (and his fellow teammates) at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, Brazil; and the 2016 murder (deemed a hate crime) of Khalid Jabara in Tulsa, Oklahoma.