Saturday March 19, 2011 | by Andrew Page

3 Questions For ... Ben Wright

FILED UNDER: Artist Interviews

Ben Wright at his FLUXspace installation in Philadelphia.

GLASS Quarterly Hot Sheet: What are you working on?
Ben Wright:
I’ve just completed a time-based installation at the FLUXspace in Philadelphia. In the central piece, Basking, light pours through a window overlaid with an image of my grandmother onto a sprouting self-portrait in grass. By passing through the filter of her pixels, the energy of the sun is transformed and combines with chance and natural forces to feed and shape my present and future. In this semiotic system, energy is neither created nor destroyed but I am searching to extract profound meaning from its transference over time.

As the piece develops its own momentum, the photographic detail evident in the fresh sprouts has begun to blur from overgrowth and the blades of grass lean and stretch towards my grandmother’s face. My hand in the piece is gradually being replaced by the patterns and whims of green growth and the piece evolves from a certain specificity to a more general allegory.

This piece is a continuation of my investigations into the potential for “simple” time-based systems to express concepts that are not easy for me to imagine existing as a single frame. This fascination, pervasive in my artwork, is deeply rooted in my early education in evolutionary biology and catalytic to my understanding of myself and my relationship to my world.

Wright's FLUXSpace installation Basking used sunlight passing through a portrait of his grandmother on glass onto his own self portrait rendered in a patch of sprouting grass.

GLASS: What artwork have you experienced recently that has moved you, and got you thinking about your own work?
Ben:
That’s an interesting question. Generally speaking I’m just as influenced by what is going on in the daily headlines or science blogs as Art in America but I do consume as much art as possible, and I have little doubt that most of it in some way affects my work. Recently, I’ve been revisiting my fascination with the Arte Povera artists of the late 1960s and the early work of Hans Haacke from roughly the same period. Not exactly the most cutting-edge work, but I’m intrigued by Haacke’s evocative use of stripped-down systems and his rejection of art’s “mythical time scale” in pursuit of work that unfolds in “real time”. I think this influence is very apparent in my present work.

Wright's self-portrait in grass after one week of sun shining through a glass window with a portrait of his grandmother painted on it.

I have many, more contemporary art crushes such as Mark Dion, Nina Katchadourian, Natalie Jeremijenko, Tim Hawkinson … I could go on and on with a very diverse list of artists and transdisciplinary creators whose work I find engaging or challenging. Realistically, the artist who has had the most profound long-running affect on my work would have to be Mark Zirpel. Starting in 2004 at the Creative Glass Center of America at WheatonArts, Mark and I have shared several residencies and co-taught a number of workshops. Although I would be hard-pressed to specifically identify the effects of this continuing collaboration, anyone who’s wandered into Mark’s gravitational field for any length of time knows how inspiring the resulting conversations and shenanigans can be.

GLASS: Where is it possible to see your work ?
Ben:
My exhibition at the FLUXspace in Philadelphia just closed after being extended to March 14th, but anyone interested in the work can email me at bwright01@g.risd.edu.

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