11 questions with artist Ben Valentine

The 11 Question Interview Series continues with Ben Valentine sharing his thoughts on art and creativity. Learn more about  the artist and visit pivotartgallery to see his featured portfolio.

valentine, ben

1. Could you please give a brief bio about how you became interested in the arts?

When I was young there was a disconnect from what I was thinking about and interested in and what most of my peers were interested in, so maybe I sought different avenues to express myself. I am lucky in that my parents both exposed me to the arts and supported creativity.  I grew up in rural Indiana and I gravitated towards anyone with any passion and intellect and started college full time when I turned sixteen. I supposed I was always very good at school and memorizing what I needed to memorize, yet art was the one thing that was really hard and challenged me.  If there is one thing I hate it is boredom and art has never stopped challenging me.

2. Do you have artistic/creative role models? If so, who are they and how do you relate to them?

Sontina Reid, who is a painter living in New Orleans. I met her through friends in high school, and she was certainly a role model. She taught me about painting, art, creativity, living, craziness, and about passion. She is a driven woman, and I deeply respect her. I remember a photo of her and Andy Warhol in a loft in SoHo, and I thought that was the coolest thing. One high school teacher I connected with, Karen Kimball, gave me a history of 20th century art book which I looked through religiously, I think these two woman really helped me realize I was an artist.

My parents too, one is a criminal defense lawyer who has saved people from death row, and the other is a professor of theology. Both of them taught me how to work hard and to learn as much as I could, and to go after what I love. They also exposed me to museums, traveling, reading, and so on.  I might have been a very boring artist without them. Finally, Evan Livingston, Kaylee Roberts, and Chris Matlack, my three best friends. Without them I would have had nobody to bounce ideas off of, nobody pushing me to learn more, nobody introducing me to new ideas. They are three amazing people.

3. Who are you influenced by?

Olafur Eliasson, Tom Friedman, Marc Quinn, Roxy Paine, Robert Irwin, Tim Hawkinson, Mark Dion, Tara Donovan, my friends, my surroundings, my parents.

4. How do you feel about the contemporary art world?

I think it is the new religion of today’s intellectuals. I go to museums/galleries and make art to truly connect with my world and time.  There are two places that have put me on the verge of tears from overwhelming sublimity, and those were a couple times in nature, and in art museums and galleries.

I think contemporary art has incredible power and yet is completely entwined with big business. The art world is made up of the most amazing children of our generation, all of whom are reduced to scraping and begging for recognition. I think the art world needs different buyers, on all economic levels, and many more of them. Artists also must admit they might not make a living solely from their art and be creative while exploring other options that could be equally fulfilling.  Schools need more funding period, especially for the arts. Basically I think it is the most amazing entity, yet has severe monetary challenges.

valentine, ben

5.  What is most satisfying to you about the creative process?

This is a hard question. I feel driven to make. I feel excited when I think of an idea I want to make, and seeing that come to life is an incredible feeling, not happiness, but something very good. I like when a stranger really understands and connects with my work, that is an exciting feeling. Yet really the best part of the creative process, for me, is walking through life with an artistic lens.  I walk trying to keep really looking, and that is just a good way to be.

6. What do you learn through your work?

Everything I am learning is because/for/parallel to my work. Sometimes I want to know about coefficient of thermal expansion for a particular piece, sometimes I am reading about Robert Irwin because I saw a show of his that I fell in love with, sometimes I am reading about complex adaptive systems to understand patterns, sometimes I am talking about language with a friend. I think all of these are important to my life and my art. I learn about the world, and what I think about it.

7. What are your top goals as an artist? What are you trying to accomplish?

Haha… I don’t know, I want to be comfortable monetarily. I want to be involved in the arts completely. I will always make my art, if my income comes from that, awesome, if it comes from running a gallery, curating shows, writing reviews, teaching, or whatever, that is great too. What I want is to be surrounded by people who are as passionate as I am about learning and creative expression. There will never be a moment where I feel I have reached a goal.

valentine, ben

8. How important is the history of art to your work? How much do you draw from what has happened?

I don’t think that a contemporary artist can be fully appreciated without an understanding of art history. I am always looking at and remembering art that came before me, whether the Venus of Willendorf or Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. I want to make art that is important and relevant, so I look at art that accomplished that.  It is a hard balance between being influenced by art and finding your own voice, and I don’t know if I will ever feel I have found that perfect balance…

9. Your work spans from blogging to sculpture to performance. How do you measure the effectiveness of each type?

I guess I could measure using google analytics or how many people are buying my works or whatever, but I don’t really do that. When I have an idea for something I want to make or do I ask what is the best way to make this? What medium will be the most honest to my concept? So I suppose I have to ask how effective each piece is, I don’t really classify them into categories like sculpture or performance but rather conceptual themes.  As for measuring them, I have a couple close friends I show all of my work to before anyone else. I have not finished many ideas because they were not well received by that group.  But really it comes down to a gut feeling that this is right, I have to make it.

10. What is the most important thing you want viewers to come away from your work with?

Wow, I am not sure. I want people to rethink how they and other objects are moving through time and interacting with stimuli.  I want the viewer to simultaneously feel as though they have learned something and need to know more to understand.

valentine, ben11. What can you add that would help us understand you and/or your work better?

I could probably tell you a bit about my personal background that would contextualize certain pieces, but I’m not going to do that. Many of the works featured on your website are about emerging aesthetics, or the art that comes from the life of an artist. I am proud that my life is leading to these situations and pieces of art, and I hope the viewer chooses to do the same.


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