Courtney Miller Bellairs
The daughter of musical and artistic parents, Courtney Miller Bellairs was born in Texarkana, Texas. She moved to Silver Spring, Maryland as a 6th grader and to Olney, Maryland as an 11th grader. These moves are important to note, as Courtney moved many times in her life, including her most recent (permanent) move to Chanhassen, Minnesota with her husband and 2 children in 2014.
Drawing and playing the piano were the things that made her most happy. Studying Architecture seemed to be a logical progression of these disciplines. Courtney received a B.S. in Architecture from the University of Maryland and was elected National President of the American Institute of Architecture Students. She received a Master of Architecture degree from Yale University. While at Yale, she was able to study painting in the Yale School of Art and to take classes in the Yale Divinity School. Courtney considered herself an 'architecture student who used painting as a tool'. However, in this environment and through a bit of study abroad, she discovered the intersection of Art, Architecture and Faith that is her inspiration and passion.
The George Nelson Fellowship enabled Courtney to travel to Europe to pursue her interest in the collaborations between the architect and client for several sacred French commissions including the Chapel at Ronchamp, the Matisse Chapel, and the monastery, LaTourette. Their artists and architects, Le Corbusier, Matisse, Bonnard, Rouault and Perret, became important mentors. Courtney painted over 140 watercolor drawings of these buildings and exhibited 74 upon her return to Yale. This work is the foundation of her research interests.
Following graduation, Ms. Miller Bellairs was invited by the Dean of the Yale School of Architecture to be a designer in his London office. She jumped at the opportunity to work abroad but it was not until she needed to take a sabbatical from her architecture position to make work for a show that she experienced what it was like to 'paint' every day. She knew she had to find a way to paint as a career. While in London, she was awarded the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours Young Artists' Award 2nd Prize, an honor for an American in a medium that is considered distinctly 'British'. For the next 10 years in London, Courtney built a multi-disciplinary practice as an artist, lecturer, designer and academic leader. She taught visual studies, drawing and design and held leadership roles at the University of Portsmouth, the London Institute, Central Saint Martin’s School of Art, and the University of Greenwich as Program Leader for the BA (Hons) Architecture. Returning to the USA, she taught on the faculty at the University of Maryland as Senior Lecturer, Assistant Director for the Architecture Program, and Assistant Dean for Student Affairs. In these roles she demonstrated her endless passion for students and their creative, academic and pastoral needs. She has recently starting teaching as an adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota, School of Architecture.
Courtney Miller Bellairs' work explores the relationships between art and architecture and the feelings produced by architecture. The notion of the plan, section and elevation become important tools for understanding her paintings. Courtney Miller Bellairs has exhibited widely in the USA and UK and her pieces are included in private and corporate collections throughout the US, UK, South Africa, Australia and China.
‘As an artist, I use my background in architecture for inspiration and depth of understanding of environments. Moving to Minnesota in 2014, I have come to appreciate the natural environment in new, unexpected and beautiful ways. I think the impact of this experience has drawn me back to an interest in the human figure. If drawn in context, a figure can show emotion, action, movement, stillness, and describe endless narratives or imagined realities. The figure is personal and it is vulnerable. Many of my architectural paintings in the last 20 years have been very formal, in that they are about form, light, shade, shadow and space. They rarely contain figures and if they do, these are almost always abstract. I don’t aim to be photorealistic but I do aim to represent a reality. In my new paintings, the hierarchy and focal point between the environment and the figure shift. The works simply depict lives intersecting with an everyday man-made world. Educated as an architect and artist, I am inspired by the intersections of Architecture and human experience and I look forward to the interests that will come to inspire future works.’