Open house with Bemis’ artists-in-residence


November 16th, 2011

Omaha, NE – The Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts will host an open house this week for art-lovers to talk to artists-in-residence.

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“These are paintings I’ve been working on since I’ve got to the Bemis Center…” Erik Benson is one of the Bemis’ 12 artists-in-residence currently working and living in the studio downtown. He’s standing in the center of the room, surrounded by several large canvas paintings laid out against the whitewashed walls, as light streams through windows that overlook the city.

Erik Benson stands in front of one of the pieces he'll be showing at the Bemis' Open Studios. The works are being prepared for a gallery showing in Madrid. (Photo by Robyn Wisch)

He’s hoping to have at least two of the paintings finished before Thursday’s open house.

“Usually it takes me about three months to do a painting,” he said. “So this is kind of like a process on steroids here.”

Benson said he’s getting some help from an assistant provided by the Bemis. “So I’ve been sort of letting go of a little bit of my control to have him work on that too. He’s doing a great job,” he laughed.

Benson grew up in Minneapolis, and is now living in New York. He received his Master’s degree at the Rhode Island School of Design in 2001, and has been a full-time artist for the last three years. Now, he’s in the middle of his residency at the Bemis, a program which provides stipends and studio space to talented artists so they can devote their full attention to their work.

Erik Benson's live-work space at the Bemis. The artists-in-residency program is three months. (Photo by Robyn Wisch)

Benson said it’s a new experience for him to live in the space he’s working in. “I have a separate live-work space back in Brooklyn, and that gives me a little bit of head space to decompress,” he said. “Here it’s a little more difficult to do that, because right when you wake up, there’s your work. It’s good in one way because I’m really enjoying getting into it right away. But it’s also kind of hard to leave it at the door too.”

Each of Benson’s paintings is painstakingly put together. He first paints sheets of glass with acrylic, then cuts those out and sets them on the canvas to form a layered painting. One of his pieces shows a playground in front of a city building and has a three-dimensional quality that makes it feel like you’re falling in.

“A lot of the work comes out of painting as a medium and seeing things,” he said. “I’m attracted to a lot of things in the urban landscape that have a temporality to them or plasticity, such as these construction sites or playgrounds, and these things that look very set upon the actual environment that they’re in, rather than kind of growing out of that architecture.”

Omaha can talk to Erik Benson about his work, and that of 11 other artists from all over the world, Thursday, Nov. 17 from 6-8pm at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Art’s Open Studios.

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