Ben Seamons, Ox-Bow School of Art & the Figure

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I question what I make, and the analysis leads me through creation, abandonment & transformation.

 

 

Ben Seamons, who created the lining of our Mystic Blue Hoodie, passed away unexpectedly in 2016. In honor of Ben's legacy as both an artist and a champion of the arts, 10% of sales of our posthumous collaboration goes directly to the Ben Seamons Scholarship Fund at Ox-Bow School of Art, a bucolic artist enclave located in Saugatuck, Michigan.

Ben first visited Ox-Bow while attending the School of the Art Institute Chicago, and felt an immediate kinship to the place and its people. Ben continued to spend time there throughout his artistic career; he and his wife Kate were married at Ox-Bow, and he looked forward to introducing his young daughters to the place that had such a hold on his heart and spirit. As Kate writes, "to know Ben was in most cases to know of Ox-Bow. He loved telling people about it, bringing people to it, and, most of all, being there." The Fund will allow one artist per year to attend Ox-Bow and experience the joy it kindled in him. 


To know Ben was in most cases to know of Ox-Bow. He loved telling people about it, bringing people to it, and, most of all, being there.

There Were Jewels in Our Eyes, 2012 / Oil on Canvas

There Were Jewels in Our Eyes, 2012 / Oil on Canvas

Untitled, 2014 / Oil on Canvas

Untitled, 2014 / Oil on Canvas

The Warrior, 2007 / Oil on Canvas

The Warrior, 2007 / Oil on Canvas

Ben's creative process focused on the space where the physicality of painting intersected with his subject matter. In a 2013 issue of New American Paintings, in which he was included, Ben wrote the following: 

I am most interested in moments where subject matter and paint collide—when figuration conveys a sense of urgency, and refinement is overruled by directness. At the start, there is no direction, or subject, or context. Painting is about figuring out these things. I question what I make, and the analysis leads me through creation, abandonment, and transformation. The forms emerge and dissolve, becoming embedded or hidden within layers of paint that are deposited over time. They co-evolve with their meaning, recognizing each other as counterparts. The figure offers the opportunity for us to see ourselves—a slice of our humanity. The figures in my paintings are ultimately personal totems, but they also act as intermediaries, leading the viewer to the complicated space between personal narrative and collective experience.


The figure offers the opportunity for us to see ourselves—a slice of our humanity. The figures in my paintings are ultimately personal totems, but they also act as intermediaries, leading the viewer to the complicated space between personal narrative and collective experience.

Ben's friend the painter Jered Sprecher says of Ben's work: [His] paintings are about the past, present, and future. Often his work began with memory or more precisely memories, whether it was wading into the lagoon, an intense conversation with a loved one, sitting around a campfire, or road trips across the country. These memories from the past met the present as Ben pulled them out of his mind's eye to express each one in the push and pull of his brush across a canvas. He traced the contours of his memories, not to freeze them in the past, but to animate them in the present. He knew that the past of his memories, with the present of his brushstrokes, would create a host of future possibilities for you and I.

Ben's death has left an un-fillable hole for those of us who had the privilege to know him. While his body has departed, the body of work he leaves behind lives on, and it is of some small solace that such is the power of art, to, in Ben's words, "dissolve the boundaries between the physical and spiritual," creating forever a connection to the joy and wonder of its maker.