Snacking on Apoquotidieosis

Sounds a little gross, doesn’t it?

Full disclosure. I know Ben Dunn. Ten years ago, I met Ben at a bible study. We all lead this new, para-church means of going through the bible. He was a kid and I was in my early 20s, but he had a candor that was older than his age and I had a frankness that he appreciated. As we sipped our beers and snacked on appetizers, we had a conversation, not just about the past, but about the present and the future. Ben has always had a good mind. He shocked us all when he dropped out of high school and though we should have been shocked when he was accepted into Mercer a few years later, those of us who knew him gave each other knowing looks. Of course he would get into Mercer. There, he took up philosophy, which was a path that those of us who knew him could see him walking, that this major was a long time coming. We were sure he was going to be a college professor, and we were proud of it. As we talked, even though I am furiously taking notes, the conversation led us through the harvest field of what became his life, the outcome of which brought him to painting.

When I considered doing the story and this review, I thought of two things: One, could I actually be fair to a friend while giving anyone reading accurate information and two, what the frak do I know about art?

What I know about art is whatever facts I have gleaned from my husband and, let’s face it, sometimes I’m not a good listener, but I know what I feel when I look at something.

It would be a mistake to read too much into Ben’s work. In fact, I’m not even sure that the paintings are about the subject as much as they are about the technique, the colours, the light, and capturing something truthfully, even if the depiction doesn’t seem right. Almost everything I thought about any of the paintings were my own feelings and my own interpretations of such.

The pieces are big. Well, some of them are what you think of as a normal sized painting. But some are just on a very large scale. My favorite piece is the one of his diabetes pen. It seems simple enough, but the yellow that takes up most of the canvas and the purple top edge complement each other in a very comforting way. Also, the pen, divested of it’s parts, appears benign, though it’s real function is not lost. Basically, something in my chest catches when I see it.

That may not happen for you. I fully admit that. But while we may approach art differently, I am blown away not only by the stories of how each painting came to be, but also the kind of work he has put into making each piece speak towards his creation. Once upon a time, a critic was someone who took the time to see what the chief aim of the creator was; they went to the dress rehearsals of plays, were on set for film production, listened to concert rehearsals, talked about the book with the author. Then they would take pen to paper and spell out how the creator’s final work appeared. Did the concept they describe make an appearance in what the audience eventually saw? The criticism was on the concepts and ideas in a very postmodern way. Criticism has now become a game of “do I personally like this”, which it was never meant to be.

The good news is that I personally like the work. Some of them reminds me of the many books piled in our office. One I like for the colors, in particular the green of the ashtray in the picture with the bourbon bottle and the extra long ash from the forgotten cigarette. But then again, it was not just Ben’s ability to capture the oddly opaque green, but my memories of that green in the early 80s from family drinking glasses that make this painting fascinating.

If you were to ask Ben which are his favorite parts of the paintings, he will inevitably point to a part of the picture where your eyes may or may not have focused, 3 square inches of space teeming with colors that he somehow manages to make distinctly their own color without all of the colors becoming one. The fact that it takes nearly a month before the painting is dry to the touch and 6 months or so before it is completely dry attests to the difficulty of that task.

Going to see Ben Dunn’s work at the 567 Cafe on Cherry Street will also net you the pleasure of hearing one of my favorite artist, Oh Dorian with special guest Nam Bui. Also, you get to see Ben’s mom, Susan, which is always a pleasure. I hope to see you tonight at 7pm for the opening reception of Apoquotidieosis. Tell me what you think!

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