Since early 2014 I have been working out of Colombia, South America, having spent much of 2012 and 2013 in northern Ethiopia. Moving from country to country, I am confronted with diverse cultural experiences, social realities, and humanitarian issues, not only by reading and researching, but by simply being there and listening to people. In the studio I set parameters in relation to concepts or happenings and investigate how place, attitude and the way in which a work of art is made relate to its outcome.
Portrait: Wherever I go in the world I make portraits. I work exclusively from live models, often in series of 4 x 5 foot canvases. I view each portrait as evidence of interaction by inviting chance into the process and using the portrait format in series to explore a broad range of topics such as place, identity, awareness and community. Each series of portraits has a conceptual framework, which acts as a catalyst for the paintings, linking them together by a statement or question. The title of a series directs the process of choosing the models, who share with one another a common situation, identity on paper, or particular life experience.
Other work: There is another direction of my work, which involves experimentation and chance procedures. This began with painting as the weather and exploring a Zen related concept: painting without wanting. Over the years, a figurative spacing has developed within this work, which has evolved into a way of processing history and my experiences in the countries where I live. Making use of deliberation, accident and choice, I search the canvases for images and resonance to both my experience and the underlying human emotions facing the people around me.
<< click image to view full screen >>
Odyssey, 2012, acrylic on canvas, 48 x 72 in.
© 2014 Benjamin M. Betsalel – All rights reserved.