An interview with painter Amy Bennett
January 29, 2024 3:44 AM   Subscribe

About a quarter of the paintings in Open Season were begun before the pandemic. I made a substantial model inspired by attending a 4H fair, and noting with curiosity that it seemed to attract both extreme ends of the political spectrum. I wanted to challenge myself to make images outside of the domestic realm. Painting crowds in the open air seemed like a counterbalance to the isolated interiors I had been immersed in. But it wasn’t long into lockdown that the theme felt too disconnected from our alarming new reality. We could finally see what a paradise we’d lost. [NSFW]
posted by cupcakeninja (14 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Amidst the bleak landscape of artists who, not content to simply paint, insist on bloviating about the exclusionary physical topography of the situated body (or interrogating the para-post-post modernist heterogeneously coded internalized tropes), it is refreshing to run across a painter who celebrates the carnivalesque revelation inherent in what we tragically call the mundane:

The characters of Open Season are content to share a tiny bathroom, or to bask in the glow of the microwave while fending for themselves, and are game to take in the laundry or garden at night because life is that full. (Amy Bennett)
posted by kozad at 6:05 AM on January 29 [2 favorites]

I was already feeling a bit like Amy Bennett had been watching surveillance footage of my childhood, and then found this at the gallery's site. I am not accustomed to finding "high art" quite so immediately relatable.

And the painting of the overgrown house is just beautiful. I would love to be able to see this show in person.
posted by EvaDestruction at 6:39 AM on January 29 [4 favorites]

These are great, and I would have never found out about Amy Bennett or her paintings otherwise. Thanks for this!
posted by mollweide at 7:15 AM on January 29 [2 favorites]

Am I wrong in thinking there's something about the proportions and angles here--the almost isometric views of some of the paintings, where you neeeeearly expect an effect like those tilt-shift photos that make everything seem miniature--that reminds me of the Sims? A little sandbox world? I really love these, they feel so familiar, in that sense.
posted by mittens at 7:24 AM on January 29 [4 favorites]

well. the lighting is wierd. it pretends to be naturalistic, isn't, instead manipulative, like video game lighting often is. look here, don't look there, draw your eye to the situation / narrative, ignore these other things that aren't important. i think that's what is kind of artistically interesting about these. it's painted in an splodgy impressionistic style that seems to be grounded in realism but that is not what is going on at all. more a painting of a memory or a feeling, than from a photograph. i like it a little but it bugs me, like i'm being jerked around too much.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:40 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]

well. the lighting is wierd. it pretends to be naturalistic, isn't, instead manipulative, like video game lighting often is. look here, don't look there, draw your eye to the situation / narrative, ignore these other things that aren't important.

I'm pretty certain painters have been using light to direct the viewer's attention for several hundred years, at least.
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:00 AM on January 29 [3 favorites]

posted by seanmpuckett at 8:19 AM on January 29

So many of these paintings are achingly familiar to me. Once I RTFA and saw that Bennet now lives in the Hudson Valley, I realized her paintings evoke my memories/lived experience of growing up in the Mid-Hudson and then returning in middle age. I hope to see some of these in person someday.
posted by KingEdRa at 8:53 AM on January 29 [2 favorites]

it's interesting to me how much she doesn't talk about the inherent individualism and desperate obsession for owned private spaces or purely functional or profit-driven open spaces that Americans tend to categorize the world into given that the gallery that I can see is devoted to them

something you notice as an immigrant coming from a culture where multi-generational families lived together in sometimes very tiny spaces for centuries is that Americans desire a vast abundance of solitary, for-myself space and even in public there's a desire for distance from others that results in highly regulated and policed streets.

impromptu street sellers, people just ambling and sitting, being around each other in close proximity, eating, laughing, sneezing, cussing - all of that feels unnatural in American mass media with the exception, in my experience, of Black productions that vividly embrace an urban landscape full of color, differences, conflict where the setting is the street and not the home (one of the most famous examples being Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing)

it feels like she gestures to the emptiness of these spaces, the human subjects tiny as they are framed by massive, canvas-dominating homes but then there's a turn against it with her nighttime paintings, the home or the garden the brightly lit and presumably safe, desireable space - a kind of suburban idyllic that reminds me of that 00s era of Flickr hyper-HDR'd photos taken by suburban photographers of empty suburban streets at night, the central subject a dimly lit arm, a swimming pool, etc, little examples of humanity in the dark void, a kind of romanticization of that emptiness and presumed freedom in a, imo, still-highly-regulated space

it's like the recognition that there exists an unnatural, uncanny solitude and loneliness that is artificially romanticized and made nostalgic, never a question of how and why those feelings existed in the first place
posted by paimapi at 9:05 AM on January 29 [4 favorites]

like those tilt-shift photos that make everything seem miniature

One thing that I found clearer in the information on the gallery's site than in the posted article is that Bennett builds scale models work from. So yes indeed, a little sandbox world.
posted by EvaDestruction at 9:09 AM on January 29 [6 favorites]

Bennett builds scale models work from

Oh my gosh--I hadn't been clear on what kind of models she was talking about in the posted interview. This is even more wonderful than I'd realized: "Beginning with a 8-foot square of styrofoam, Bennett carved mountains, valleys, rivers and ponds, and propagated a verdant fake landscape with hundreds of wire and foam trees. She fabricated over 450 wooden buildings in 1/500 scale (similar to the size of a Monopoly hotel): houses, garages, commercial buildings, storefronts, and schools and painted each by hand. The tiny structures gradually populated her artificial town. She then mapped the complete village and stages of development over time, documenting the changes in her model through a series of paintings and monotypes beginning with landscape paintings."
posted by mittens at 9:13 AM on January 29 [4 favorites]

Bennett’s work is truly dear to my heart, though I’ve never seen any in person. She does indeed have a tilt-shift vibe, and the models are amazing. I first encountered her work some years ago, when it had a more Gothic vibe—in its way, a bit like the work of model-maker Annie Graham in Hereditary. I published an essay at one point about small-scale horror, talking about Bennett and her scale opposite, Gregory Crewdson, a photographer whose work I think would also appeal to many folks here—more surreal, though.
posted by cupcakeninja at 9:32 AM on January 29 [3 favorites]

Also, Bennett was the cover artist for Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere. That book was popular and the cover was everywhere in bookstores for a couple years. So, if it looks familiar, but you can’t quite place why…
posted by cupcakeninja at 9:37 AM on January 29 [3 favorites]

I like these very much thanks for sharing it. The question to lighting, I think two paintings, 'Pageant" and 'Backstage illustrates seanpuckett' idea. notice the very dark and striking tree shadow on the red barns in each painting.some of the tree shading is very interesting in contrast to this and when you focusing on to the subject matter of the people which seem to be almost a prop, as if an old photograph is repainted in. it's quite interesting. I like how the artist uses shadow and shade almost a mist like effect in some of the paintings. I like the one particularly with all the laundry in the driveway in the car light that was quite interesting. I love minimalism and miniatures. in a small way, the artists work reminds me of the opening sequence of Wayward Pines as much as lighting, shadow upon the miniatures.
posted by clavdivs at 6:57 PM on January 29 [1 favorite]

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