Benjamin Gardner

Ontology and culture constitute the pillars of my research.  In a broad sense, I reflect on and investigate existence, time, memory, and human work and production.  Questions about the cosmological existence of the human race, why we produce culture, and the state of after-existence are important ones to my reading and studio practice.  


My most recent works (collectively titled Head of a Saint and Empire) are informed by a scene from Chris Marker’s film La Jetée in which a man is used as a time traveler by survivors of a nuclear attack on Paris in hopes to reestablish civilization.  Underground there is a brief scene of a pile of marble statues stacked for storage and written on the bottom of one is the phrase tete apotre or head of the apostle.  This image of the head of a destroyed statue now in storage has been an important discourse in my work.  It is a product of war, revolution, and a cultural shift, that is both an icon of the culture once in power and a symbol of conquest by the new regime.  Using the compositional structure of portraits and heads as a basis for abstract image making, my recent paintings are meant to parallel this social archetype through the traditions of portrait painting and abstraction.  I see the complex nature of the transition of power from one authority to another to be historically significant.  Culture is linked to time through these objects, significant to one society but easily destroyed.  


My three-dimensional work is related to this research as well and my structures are intended to reference monuments and sculptures of past civilizations on a smaller scale with imperfect and found materials, primarily wood scraps.  Art, part cultural production and part service to those in power, has been primarily produced through labor, and these small sculptural forms are evidence of working with my hands and constructing imperfect idols, icons, and monuments.  


I see my paintings and sculptures together as artifacts of a fallen empire.  While dystopian narratives often serve the purpose of awareness of the frailty of society through metaphor and fiction, I see my visual work as a literal vestige of systems that will be replaced, acknowledging the cycle of social order, power shifts, and cultural trends.  This does not diminish the importance of making objects and images; rather, it reinforces my drive and desire to contribute to culture and society through visual art.