Interview by Kristin Farr and portrait by Laura June Kirsch
In Search of Identity and Empowerment
The enigmatic Ana Benaroya is more than just an artist; she is a quiet creator, employing the language of art to express the fiery emotions that burn brightly within her. Through her fervent paintings, she explores the complex experiences of being a woman in a world that often relegates them to second-class citizens. In a society marked by varying degrees of violence and inequality, Benaroya’s art emerges as a powerful voice, fighting against the perceived inferiority of the female identity. With deep-seated emotions and a relentless desire for control over both body and intention, her vivid paintings seek to dismantle these societal barriers. In a world where identity carries immense weight, Benaroya’s work demands to be seen and heard.
The Emotion-Driven Starting Point
When beginning a new painting, Ana Benaroya delves into the realm of emotion and character. She immerses herself in the feelings and connections that define the person within her artwork and explores their interactions with others. Emotion serves as the core inspiration for her work, driving the narrative that unfolds on the canvas. Color, on the other hand, is an instinctive choice for Benaroya, flowing naturally as she responds to the existing hues within the painting. The result is a symbiotic relationship between emotion, character, and color, producing vibrant and dynamic artworks.
Burning Down the Patriarchy
One consistent theme that runs through Ana Benaroya’s work is her exploration of the patriarchy and her desire to dismantle its oppressive structures. In her zine titled “Men Burning in Hell,” she depicts drawings of men engulfed in flamesâ€”an allegorical representation of her burning anger as a response to the gender inequality ingrained in society. This fiery anger has been a part of Benaroya’s life since childhood, ignited by her realization that women are often considered second-class citizens. However, she has channeled this anger into productive outlets like art, allowing her work to become a platform for criticism and defiance against the patriarchal status quo.
Unveiling the Strength of the Human Body
Through her artwork, Ana Benaroya delves into the intricate details of the human body and its musculature. Her fascination with superhero comics, athletes, and action figures as a child shaped her artistic direction. Drawing inspiration from muscular and masculine figures, she admired their power and how they commanded respect. This early fixation developed into an exploration of the male physique, neglecting the female figure entirely. However, Benaroya acknowledges the impact of societal conditioning and has consciously worked to overcome this bias, establishing a more balanced representation of gender in her work.
The Independent Power of Body Parts
In Benaroya’s paintings, each body part possesses its own agency and power. From a single strand of hair to a nipple, every component operates independently, as if governed by its own brain and nervous system. Each part is alive and active, demonstrating its extreme physical and emotional presence. Through this portrayal, Benaroya aims to reflect the emotional life of her characters and present them in their purest formâ€”unburdened by hidden truths or regrets.
The Melody of Visual Language
Titles and pop culture references play an integral role in Ana Benaroya’s artwork. Often, the titles either inspire the painting itself or provide additional context and emotional cues for the viewer. Drawing from her passion for writing short stories, Benaroya views the title as a sentence that establishes a connection between the artwork and the viewer. Sometimes, she creates original titles, while other times, she incorporates lines from songs or poems that resonate with her and further enrich the painting’s meaning. This blending of visual art with the poetic world allows her paintings to transcend the limits of traditional representation.
The Unseen Power of Music
Music holds a significant place in Ana Benaroya’s creative process. With a background in playing the piano and clarinet, as well as being an avid music enthusiast, music permeates her artistic endeavors. She creates playlists to accompany her painting sessions, allowing music to infuse her work with intangible emotions. In her recent solo show, music becomes the invisible thread that connects all her paintings, underscoring the idea of pure emotion free from the constraint of rationality. Just as music bypasses the brain and touches the heart directly, Benaroya aims to replicate this effect through her artwork.
Communicating the Unspoken
Ana Benaroya’s paintings serve as a medium for communication, allowing her to express thoughts and feelings that may be difficult to articulate verbally. As a naturally quiet and introspective person, she pours her internal landscape into her artwork, revealing her true self on canvas. Her paintings serve as an extension of her identity, encompassing her emotions and experiences. Despite the dichotomy between her outward personality and the vibrancy of her artwork, her paintings offer a profound understanding of who she truly is.
The Energetic Rhythm of Creation
When she enters her studio, Ana Benaroya experiences moments of intense focus and energetic painting, entirely consumed by the process. During these periods, she becomes the conductor, orchestrating her artwork to the rhythm of the music that envelops her. However, she also values reflective moments, where she takes a step back to contemplate her work and plan her next move. Immersed in the creative flow, she prefers to keep the momentum going, continuously producing new paintings rather than getting caught up in endless revisions. Imperfection and spontaneity are vital elements of her artistic practice.
Revealing the Ineffable
Ana Benaroya’s artwork transcends language, allowing her to communicate the intangible aspects of the human experience. Through her paintings, she reveals the souls of her characters, presenting them in their purest form. Her goal is to create artworks that are accessible and relatable to a wide range of individuals, even if their tastes differ. Her visual vocabulary draws inspiration from popular culture, employing elements from concert posters, advertising, cartoons, and illustrations. Simultaneously, she integrates her knowledge of art history and other artists, blending highbrow and lowbrow influences seamlessly.
A Journey into the Depths of Time
Time travel often occupies Ana Benaroya’s thoughts, and she imagines visiting various eras in New York City’s history, ranging from the 1920s to the 1980s. Her fascination with the city stems from the diverse artists and musicians who contributed to its artistic legacy. She yearns to witness their lives firsthand, immersing herself in the vibrant atmosphere that shaped the city’s cultural identity.
From New York to Italy
Born in New York and currently residing in Jersey City, Ana Benaroya’s connection to her hometown remains strong. Her childhood memories of growing up in Flushing, Queens, alongside her grandparents, hold a special place in her heart. Her studio in Jersey City provides an efficient and vibrant workspace, despite its small size. However, her artistic journey has taken her beyond the borders of her home country. Benaroya recently embarked on a month-long residency at Palazzo Monti in Brescia, Italy, exploring a new environment and incorporating its influence into her art.
The Impact of Education and Post-Grad Life
Ana Benaroya cherishes the impact of her education on both her technical skills and intellectual growth. Prior to attending Yale, her training primarily focused on illustration and design, without formal art theory or history. Yale provided her with a transformative experience, honing her painting skills and encouraging her to critically examine her work. The camaraderie and inspiration she found among her talented classmates further enriched her artistic journey. Since graduating, she has transitioned into post-grad life, reveling in the quiet solitude of her studio, where she can explore her artistic vision without external influences.
A Glimpse into the Future
2020 holds tremendous promise for Ana Benaroya’s artistic career. Her solo show at Richard Heller Gallery in Los Angeles, aptly titled “Teach Me Tonight,” will captivate audiences with her latest body of work. Additionally, she is currently undertaking a month-long residency at Palazzo Monti in Brescia, Italy, further expanding her artistic horizons. Later in the year, she will showcase her art in a solo exhibition at Ross + Kramer Gallery in New York City, cementing her position as a prominent figure in the art world.
A Whiff of Inspiration from Celine Dion
Among the various sources that inspire Ana Benaroya, Celine Dion occupies a special place in her heart. Her childhood memories of dancing to Dion’s music with her brother evoke a sense of joy and nostalgia. Benaroya admires Dion’s uniqueness and her ability to transcend the expectations set by her music. The dramatic and over-the-top nature of Dion’s songs resonates with Benaroya, serving as a source of inspiration for the energy and vibrancy that pervades her own artwork.
Navigating the Boundaries of Art and Illustration
As both an artist and an illustrator, Ana Benaroya sees minimal distinctions between the two realms. While illustration often arises from a specific brief and is reproduced in print or online, the creative process and artistic talent behind both disciplines remain intrinsically linked. Benaroya rejects hierarchical notions that prioritize fine art over illustration, recognizing that artistic expression can manifest in various forms, including paintings, illustrations, comics, and sculptures. The boundaries between these spheres blur when confronted with true creative prowess.
An Ideal Dinner Party
Ana Benaroya’s ideal dinner party is a reflection of her vibrant personality and artistic influences. Surrounded by her closest friends and family, she would conjure up a Chinese delivery feast accompanied by sweet, delicious cocktails in beautiful glasses. The atmosphere would be infused with a carefully curated playlist, enhancing the enjoyment of the evening. In addition to loved ones, Benaroya’s guest list includes an array of artists whose work she admires, such as Nicole Eisenman, Carroll Dunham, Tom of Finland, Keith Haring, Robert Colescott, Joan Mitchell, Helen Frankenthaler, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Henri Matisse.
An Enduring Love for Matisse
Henri Matisse holds a special place in Ana Benaroya’s pantheon of admired artists. She is captivated by the perceived simplicity and ease of his paintings, where line and color converge to create remarkable works of art. Matisse’s ability to strike a balance between painterly and graphic elements resonates deeply with Benaroya, as she shares a similar aspiration in her own artistic practice. His influence manifests in her pursuit of simplicity amidst the maximalist tendencies that define her paintings.
Through her unique artistic voice, Ana Benaroya reveals the intensity of emotion, the power of the human body, and the complexities of identity. Her work challenges societal norms and empowers the female voice. With a melodic blend of color, form, and narrative, she invites viewers to unlock her artwork’s cryptic messages and embark on a journey of self-reflection and enlightenment. Ana Benaroya, the quiet creator, weaves a tapestry of poetry and empowerment that resonates with audiences far and wide.
In conclusion, Ana Benaroya’s artwork encapsulates the profound emotions and complexities of human existence. Through her paintings, she unveils the strength and power within the female identity, dismantles societal barriers, and challenges deeply ingrained patriarchal systems. Her exploration of the human body goes beyond mere representation, delving into the underlying symbolism and independent agency of each body part. With captivating titles and intriguing pop culture references, she infuses her artwork with additional layers of meaning and connects with viewers on a deeper level. Music plays a crucial role in her creative process, serving as a conduit for pure emotion. Ana Benaroya’s paintings serve as a medium of communication, allowing her to express thoughts and feelings that may be difficult to articulate verbally. Her artistic journey is a testament to the transformational power of education, and her upcoming shows promise to captivate audiences worldwide. In her quest to blur the boundaries between fine art and illustration, she paves the way for multidimensional artistic expression. Ana Benaroya’s art creates an indelible mark on the canvas of human experience, bringing poetic justice to the forefront of our consciousness.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What inspires Ana Benaroya’s artwork?
Ana Benaroya draws inspiration from a variety of sources, including emotions, characters, music, and pop culture references. Her work is driven by her intense feelings and her desire to explore the human condition.
2. How does Ana Benaroya select the titles for her artwork?
Ana Benaroya often thinks of titles during or after she completes a painting. The title acts as a glimpse into the emotional context of the artwork, offering viewers a deeper understanding of its message. She derives titles from her own writing, songs she listens to, or poetry she admires, further enhancing the connection between the painting and the viewer.
3. What role does music play in Ana Benaroya’s creative process?
Music is a significant catalyst for Ana Benaroya’s artistic endeavors. She creates playlists that accompany her painting sessions, allowing the music to infuse her work with intangible emotions and set the tone for her creative process. Music serves as a bridge between the heart and the artwork, bypassing rational thought and evoking raw emotions.
4. How does Ana Benaroya communicate difficult subjects through her artwork?
Ana Benaroya’s paintings serve as a means of communication, allowing her to express thoughts and feelings that may be challenging to articulate verbally. She pours her emotions and internal life into her artwork, thereby bridging the gap between her quiet personality and the vibrant energy captured on the canvas.
5. What are Ana Benaroya’s future plans and upcoming exhibitions?
In 2020, Ana Benaroya has a solo show at Richard Heller Gallery in Los Angeles titled “Teach Me Tonight.” She is also participating in a month-long residency at Palazzo Monti in Brescia, Italy. Later in the year, she will have a solo exhibition in New York City at Ross + Kramer Gallery. These exciting opportunities will showcase her latest artwork and solidify her position as a prominent artist in the contemporary art world.