Featured Artist Rex Benson - Part Two
A Chat with Sculptor Rex Benson
Rex Benson approaches his work with a unique sense of humor and charisma. Working locally, Rex creates whimsical sculptures and "3-D Cartoons", using Rovin clay bodies. Recently, Rex chatted with us about his process, studio habits, and background. Here is part two of that conversation! Rex will be joining us at Rovin for a FREE Artist Talk, on May 15 from 6:30-7:30pm. He will be generously sharing his unique techniques and insights.
Have you had any artist mentors along the way? if so, who were they and in what way did you regard them as a mentor?
A. My mentor was (and is) a clay artist from Wisconsin named George Genszler (most know him as Bill). His booth was next to mine in Ann Arbor the second year I participated in the Street Fair (that's what we called it back then). We became friends and he became my "go to" guy for clay questions. He also gave me business advice. He makes beautiful sgraffito designs in clay and he has always been extremely generous with ideas and support.
B. The most influential artist in my life was Ann Arbor's own Robert Black. I first saw his work while on a high school field trip to check out a painting exhibit at Sill Hall on the EMU campus in Ypsilanti. I was fifteen years old and wandered away from the group to find a showcase at the end of a hallway with three or four cylindrical "People Pots" by Bob Black. I was stunned that there was actually someone who was making cartoons out of clay- they blew me away. I said to my teacher "Is this allowed?" to which she replied "It's encouraged." Later that year that teacher arranged for me to meet with Bob Black in his studio where my imagination met inspiration. Bob was not only making these incredible People Pots, he was selling them as fast as they came out of the kiln. I took notice of both.
How do you explain your work to others?
I always say that talking about art is like dancing about architecture so I try to avoid explaining my work. As artists we speak a plastic language that loses a lot in translation- I make the sculpture and it speaks for itself. I think most of them say "Rex was here."
What have you found to be the biggest challenge in either your process or professionally? and what have you done to overcome it?
Anyone who has tried to work with clay know what a challenge it can be to see the image in your mind transform into a three dimensional object but probably the biggest challenge has been trying to understand why the art world has so little respect for funny stuff. I haven't done anything to overcome it short of ignoring it and hoping that attitude goes away.
What is on your music playlist when you are working in the studio? Or what Pandora station do you listen to?
I am all over the board with music. I like jam bands because of the long uninterrupted tracks. For many years it was The Grateful Dead then Dylan (Don't forget how old I am). Later: moe. and Robert Randolph. I get a lot of inspiration from Brian Wilson. Lately I have been enjoying Of Monsters and Men, The Avette Brothers, 311 and the CD Steve Martin and Edie Brickell put out last year. I could spend hours talking about the music I enjoy- This week is it has been mostly Jazz but Prince is playing on my stereo right now. Music has always been a big part of my studio time.