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Thursday, March 25, 2010

A few questions with Ben Goldman

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Ben Goldman uses self portrait to explore the world around himself. In his new show of mixed media paintings and video at Kibbee Gallery, In a Stange Place, Goldman paints himself into watercolor landscapes of confusion, misdirection, and frustration. Instead of merely focusing on himself, Goldman's paintings acutely identify the stress and beauty of contemporary life. Kibbee hosts a closing reception for In a Strange Place on Saturday.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I have a Bachelors of Fine Art in painting and drawing from Kennesaw State University, and I am currently finishing up my Masters of Fine Arts from Georgia State University. I grew up in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. I lived for 10 years in Gainesville, Florida before moving up here to the Atlanta area about 7 years ago.

Can you tell me more about the themes of confusion or frustration that recur in this show? Are you drawing from personal experience?

I am drawing from a personal place, but I am relating it to the bigger picture. My work is often observational. I make commentary based on personal observations of life around me. I watch how people around me are coping in the busy modern world. When I show myself in the images, it is personal, but often it is about situations I witnessed in others as well. Many people I know, from all socio-economic levels, have crazy stressful lives. The economy is rough, the world is crazy and full of uncertainty yet we still have decent lives and good times. I overcome obstacles and move on. Stress helps me create more art, learn new things and become a stronger person. It's also adding a lot of grey to my head, but such is life.

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Can you explain your process for "In a Strange Place'? How long have you been working on these pieces? What got you started on this style of self portraiture?

I have been working on this show for a little over a year. The video pieces in the show took the most time to shoot, rotoscope and edit. The show is a mix of video and mixed media paintings. Most of the paintings are watercolors with drawing in inks and graphite. Some imagery is created by altering photos in photoshop and then painting on top of the prints.

The work is about life in our modern world. My life is very busy and stressful. I chose to use self portraiture to discuss life and stress. My experiences are not unique and I hope to have the viewer relate their own feelings with my ups and downs. Life is not all bad, not all stress is bad. So I created the colorful watercolor paintings as a way to show time swirling around me during the days and weeks. Some colors convey intense events, others are more peaceful and calm. By using my own image I could honestly think about my issues with stress, daily life and time in the modern world. I created images concerning calendars and clocks since I am always rushing to be somewhere by a certain time, or meet a deadline by a certain date.

My video piece about commuting, "Day and Night," was shot over an 8 month period as I worked to capture interesting aspects of daily commuting into and out of Atlanta. I live in Marietta and my drive can sometime be an hour and a half long commute. The videos show scenes from my life in colorful line work. They deal with time and motion. Things are always moving and changing. The two aspects of the show, video and painting, work together to try and convey a sense of our busy 24 hour world that we live in.

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Ink jet printing was used in some of the pieces. Is this medium a reference to office culture?

I used photography to capture my image in various poses to show emotional states. The photos are altered in Photoshop to enhance the scene and then printed onto watercolor paper. The inks from inkjet printers bleed and run when water is applied to the image. I use ink and watercolor to further alter the images. So they are a blend of printed images and painting. One reason I created the printed works was to use modern tools to discuss modern life. The computer is in almost every home, as are inkjet printers. I used simple digital cameras and small pocket video camcorders to capture my images. Technology is very cheap and attainable, and is becoming pocket-sized. One thing I was thinking about when creating these pieces was work life, but also our social life and how technology has become such a part of it. Cell phones are great, but also add stress. Same with computers, which love to crash and loose whatever I was working on. So, I wanted to put aspects of these ideas into the work.

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What are your influences?

My background is a strange blend of influences. I am looking at the works of Goya where he made commentary on the world around him. "Los Caprichos" and "The Disasters of War" are two series of prints that Goya created to show the follies of the world. I used his image "Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters" to create the large drawing/painting over the fireplace. Goya created powerful drawings for his etchings that conveyed ideas and emotions with simplicity and a brilliant use of negative space. I also look at Heinrich Kley, a German political illustrator, for his ink work and use of satire. There are other painters such as Egon Schiele, Francis Bacon and Peter Paul Rubens that I look at for color, figure work and composition.

The videos are influenced by artist Bill Viola and the cartoonist Bill Plympton - a weird mix to be sure. At the core of all this is a love of science and nature films. I study human animal behavior. Observation is key to my work. Much like animal documentary films, I watch and record events and behaviors around me and then use that to form the ideas for my art work. Images of monkeys appear in my work often because of my research into stress and the work of Robert Sapolsky - watch the National Geographic special Killer Stress about humans and how they are primates and how we primates all deal with stress. I also love Desmond Morris and his studies of human animal behavior - read The Naked Ape.

A closing reception for In a Strange Place will be held at Kibbee Gallery on Sat., March 27 at 6 pm.

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