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Another Hidden Treasure Behind the Doors of San Miguel

By Rhea Bel-Jon Calkins, photos by Athena Bel-Jon DeBonis

We all know about the marvelous houses one finds hidden behind the distinctive doors of San Miguel, but every now and then you can find another type of treasure behind these doors.  One of those hidden treasures was the late San Miguel artist Troy Bel-Jon. 

Art, Retrospective: Troy Bel-Jon – Metal Imagery. Sat, Mar 17, 6-9pm Until Sun, Mar 25, 6-9pm or by appointment. Casa Troy, Cerrada de Zacateros 7, Centro. Free. 152-2803

Although the metal murals she created in New York were seen by tens of thousands of people, very few local residents have ever had the opportunity to view her paintings on metal other than her close friends.  Her unique art will be displayed to the public in San Miguel for the first time this month when her family is opening her home and studio to the public for a retrospective exhibit.

The artwork that will be on view is the breathtaking evolution of the fascinating techniques to create murals on metal that were developed by her husband Nikos Bel-Jon in 1948. 

Originally sheet metal was the canvas, with abrasives as the brushes and light as color.  The metal was first enhanced by burnishing and graining so that light rays bounced at different angles and intensity.  These produced a kinetic sensation by simulating movement through the refraction and diffusion of light. The metals were imbued with radiance or given subtle gradations of tone by faceting and oxidizing, coloring or colored illumination.

Troy was a driving force and collaborator in the San Francisco and New York studios that designed murals for industrial giants like Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, Kaiser Industries, US Steel, Air India and the Greek Consulate in New York.  Until Nikos’ death in 1966 they created 184 murals.  After his death Troy continued The Bel-Jon studio creating murals for Hamburg Savings Bank, Andrews Air Force Base, Air India, and numerous other commissions.  In 1978 when she abandoned her career in industrial art and devoted herself to her continued studies of art and exploring other media to combine with the metal murals.

In San Miguel Troy continued developing new methods of expressing motion and emotion with light and shadow on metal surfaces, but now with vibrant colors directly applied to the metal.  She experienced a freedom of design that she never had before.

Please join the Bel-Jon family in celebrating this wonderful artist’s life.

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