Magazine article Southwest Art

Ben Steele

Magazine article Southwest Art

Ben Steele

Article excerpt

Giacobbe- Fritz Fine Art, June 22-July 5

IT ALL STARTED with a crayon- well, not an actual crayon, but a painting of one. In 2002, Ben Steele, having just recently graduated with a bachelor of fine arts degree from the University of Utah, was living in the old mining town of Helper, UT, and interning at the Helper Workshops, where he also studied with its founders, respected artists and teachers David Doman and Paul Davis.

"Dave encouraged me to paint whatever I was interested in," Steele recalls. "'Do that and you'll start to see a pattern,' he told me." So Steele painted that image of a common child's drawing tool, and while doing so he thought, "I'll put it in the context of a coloring-book page. And, since I've always loved art history, why not put Mona Lisa on that page?" Sure enough, the pattern Doman had promised began to emerge. Soon after, while shopping in a local Wal-Mart, Steele saw a display of Pez candy dispensers - "and I thought, what if Rembrandt's head were on one?" That became his next painting.

Thus began what is now a decade-long flow of paintings that might best be described as realistically portrayed, wildly imaginative mash-ups between art history and popular culture. The latest examples of this playful-yet-accomplished oeuvre are on display starting June 22 at Giacobbe-Fritz Fine Art on Canyon Road in Santa Fe. The show opens with an artist's reception on June 22 from 5 to 7 p.m. "Ben's shows always create a lot of excitement," says gallery director Palin Wiltshire. "He's so fresh and different. People just plain get a kick out of him."

Steele clearly continues to get a kick out of mining this rich artistic vein. "When 1 have a new idea, I'll put it on an index card," he says. "Now I have a giant 4-by-8foot board covered with index cards that I arrange in a hierarchy of importance. …

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