Ben sat down to talk with me about about fraternities, Braille, and the tough love of mama foxes. Photos + interview after the jump:
|"Struck ( to cry underwater )"|
EC: Where did you grow up?
BR: I grew up in Long Island, NY in a really scenic town.
EC: You grew up there, and then you moved to Chicago for school?
EC: When did you decide on going to The School of the Art Institute of Chicago?
BR: I actually didn't go to SAIC at first..I went to Syracuse for art, and then transferred because I couldn't do the University thing. I didn't want to have a college campus, or...I mean... the kids I met when I was there were all..rushing for fraternities and stuff..
EC: Wasn't your scene.
BR: No, I couldnt do that. I left after a semester.
EC: Okay, so you pretty much started at SAIC. When you got there, what was your focus right away?
BR: It was sculpture. It's sort of always been sculpture. I took a lot of different classes, but I was always taking one in the sculpture department, or doing sculpture for other classes..
EC: It was your core practice.
EC: We had a printmaking class together pretty early on..did you explore that any further?
BR: I took a lot of printmaking, actually, but I kind of stopped because I didn't really fit into the classes...
EC: What do you mean?
BR: When I showed my work in critiques, I would show maybe one or two of the hundred prints I'd made, and show sculptures along with it/them...or I wouldn't show the prints at all, I'd show other pieces I'd made.
EC: So you were making it sort of like...you were showing how your prints inform your sculptures, or how they worked off of each other..sort of setting up an installation... and people didnt respond well?
BR: Well sometimes they did respond well..but other times it was sort of ..well, yeah..they didn't respond well.
Half and half, maybe. Depended on the class.
EC: I saw some concrete and ceramic in the studio back there..when did you start using those materials?
BR: Half of them are ceramics, and the other twenty-five percent are cement and concrete... and plaster is the other.... but I started using plaster in high school. Cement I started using when I was a Sophomore. I've evolved in my process..how I use it. I didn't know how to make it for a year, and it would just break. But yeah, I ended up getting really into ceramics towards the end of school.
EC: You took ceramic classes?
BR: I took two, and I volunteered to teach a ceramics class while I was in school. It was part of the parks department...I taught a class to the blind.
EC: Wow, and how was that?
BR: Oh, it was amazing. It was great. They were all big personalities...they would all say it was their favorite class, and the way that we communicated was unlike any way I had communicated with other people before..
EC: Your piece that you told me was braille..was that influenced by your time teaching that class?
BR: Yeah...I made that recently, but it's an idea I've had since I taught the class.
The students would make Braille pieces, like plaques that said their names. They would glaze them, too. One girl made a plaque that said her name, and she glazed it using only black glazes, which is interesting. It ended up looking kind of like a gravestone or something. So I mean, I definitely pulled from them.
EC: Hmm. Tell me about the animal sculptures in your studio..I saw a few little animals around.
BR: The blue dog is a ceramic piece I made when I was in second grade. Then there's a cement life-sized sleeping fox that I showed for the BFA show. I really like that piece. I made it two years before I was even going to graduate. Foxes, when they get to be a certain age, their mothers kick them out of their hole or nest or whatever. If they come back, the mom will try to kill them.
EC: She's like, "Get the fuck out. Forever."
BR: Yes.I was thinking a lot about exile.
EC: What were you doing with the lights in your studio? It seemed like an in-progress thought..am I right in thinking that?
BR: Yeah, I'm just trying to get the tones right. I think that i will figure out more of a form when I have the tones of the light together.
EC: Why are you using lights?
BR: I've used them before, but never very well.
I learned how to wire them, and I used them maybe two or three times, but I never liked the stuff that happened with it. But I'm trying to uh...well, I mean. Okay. I'm thinking about love and loss...there's a division, but they meet all the time, so lights to me are... really important to life and to both of those things. The lights that I chose are kind of..maybe nostalgic...
EC: You mean the colors of them?
BR: Mmhm. And there's a sense of warmth that I feel like I strip out of my work all of the time..I want to try to bring it in.
EC: Do you have any prospects of a show coming up?
BR: Me and a friend are trying to write a proposal right now...but those things fall through all the time. We both are kind of work off of similar ..a similar ground, so we're trying to put a show together. But I'm also just working to keep going.
EC: Sure. Gotta keep goin'.
Thanks so much, Ben.