She’s a fantastic painter. Benson works with a variety of textures—thin, even tones of spray paint; thick oil and acrylic paint designed to show brush work; and thick gestural squiggles—and combines them with mastery. The paintings
often have a collaged, textile feel; many are people-sized, which adds an element of grandeur and awe.
Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that she’s been added to the painter friendly program at Horton Gallery this year. She has a show coming up at The Torrance Art Museum, and having just come off 2012 with seven group exhibitions under her belt, we think she’s poised for success.
What neighborhood do you live in?
I live in Clinton Hill. I moved here while I was going to Pratt and never left the neighborhood. I love it here; my studio is also in the neighborhood. Clinton Hill has everything I need within walking distance, and sometimes I’ll go a whole week without leaving.
How do you start a new project?
I usually begin a painting with a simple shape or linear element that starts to build the kind of space I want to make. From there the painting can go anywhere. Each successive move then depends on the previous one. I work intuitively, but also deliberately.
Do you have a studio routine?
Lately I’ve had to cut back on my studio routine a bit. I work four days a week. I also recently switched mediums and my paintings are taking longer to dry, so there’s more down time. I’m in there working 3 solid days a week, and then two or three evenings as well. My routine basically revolves around the paintings.
Is there an artist or exhibition that’s had an especially significant impact on your development recently?
I’ve been revisiting Albert Oehlen’s Computer Paintings from the 1990s. These were made using primitive imaging software, and Oehlen chose to manually touch up the images afterwards to smooth out edges or fix mistakes. I think this idea of an humanistic response to digitized images has had a huge impact on my work. There’s also a feeling of nostalgia when I view this work, since the first time I picked up a spray can was probably in MacPaint.
You make abstract paintings with colored shapes in the background and squiggles in the foreground. It’s the kind of painting that could easily become formulaic. How have you kept that from happening?
That’s my worst fear! I try to make every painting a different painting compositionally. Sometimes there’s squiggles in the background. I am always trying to introduce new elements into the paintings: new colors, new tools, new techniques, new space. I recently cut a hole in one of my paintings. When I find myself making rules, I try to break them. It’s hard not to get stuck using your favorite shapes and colors, but then that can get boring fast.
You’re under 30 and just joined Horton Gallery’s roster. Do you have any advice for other young artists?
I would say one of the big lessons I’ve learned is to take your time. We all push so hard as artists and we think of opportunities like studio visits to be almost once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. It’s important if you’re not ready to show your work to wait to have a dealer or curator into your studio. You may only get one chance with them.
It’s the other way around with other artists. Ask your favorite artists for studio visits! In my experience, most artists love having company in the studio, and I always learn so much.
Is there another medium or style of work that you’d like to explore or have started to experiment with?
As I said before, I recently cut into one of my paintings. I’d like to find new ways to make reductive moves in my work, not always additive. Lately I’ve been fascinated with additive moves (like painting over) that can have a reductive effect. I’m going to explore more ideas like these, hopefully without the work becoming gimmicky.
How do you describe your work to your parents?
With my Dad I can talk about my work in an art historical context. He gets Lichtenstein, and I think that’s a doorway into my work. My Mom likes to turn the abstract paintings into pictures. I usually tell her it’s just paint.
Gusto, acrylic, enamel, spray paint, and oil on canvas, 77” x 80”, 2012