2017 National Mature Media Award WINNER

2017 National Mature Media Award WINNER
The Creative Landscape of Aging Wins a NMMA Award!


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

An Interview with BENNETT BEAN: Creating a Continuum of Art

I understand that you migrated to art as a college student. I assume that there were early creative experiences that paved the way. Was your artful spirit hibernating, were you aware of it?

First, it was the way I was brought up and given a sense by my mother that I was astonishingly wonderful. This is a perfect gift to give a child. Second, third grade was amazingly important.  I went to a university experimental school where their experiment was to provide a project then point to the back of the room where there were plenty of books and materials to find a solution. I still approach my art that way; I have a project and then I search for the solution. So much is about curiosity.

I was dyslexic before they invented dyslexia so I was considered stupid; but, I was so well armored by my mother’s spirit that I could not be crushed. I think of dyslexia as an advantage, and I feel sorry for artists who think in linear terms; I enjoy thinking in terms of a relational field of elements spun in space.

Becoming an artist was not a very popular thought when I was growing up in the 50s. In any event, my mother said that I could be an artist but had to finish school first so in that way she gave me permission and restrictions.

It’s interesting that your mother was the one to encourage you to take the leap in Art studies since often most parents place an emphatic push on traditional careers.  She must have been a very intuitive person with good instincts.

My mother was fabulous with great instincts and very smart. I had a great childhood with only standard suffering such as occasional bullying. It was idyllic to grow up in the Midwest in the 50’s.


You traveled through initial career journeys as an archaeologist then an architect to solidly planting yourself as an artist. How have these studies shaped your thinking in making your art?

I was really shopping for a way to make a living. I was very lucky to have gone to Grinnell, which was a liberal arts college where I was forced to explore a variety of studies. Their core curriculum was really good. I was just trying to figure it out and then I received permission from my mother to study Art and left Grinnell. I enrolled in the University of Iowa which was like a huge art factory and a wonderful place to be; an ideal situation with many types of students.


You write:“The things I make influence what I buy and the things I buy influence what I make…..  It’s a dance where ideas are applied in different ways depending on the medium.” This integrative approach must trigger a whole inner circle of visual and intellectual thought. When did you become conscious of this unique way of relating to the objects around you?


It is kind of a circle; each feeds the other. We’re making rugs in Nepal and using images of pots in the design, and as the rugs change it goes back and influences my pots again. Now I am making a new line of furniture which is taking imagery from both the pots and the rugs. It is a kind of interior discussion based on curiosity of what happens if I take this thing from here……stealing one thing from one place to see how it may fit in another . It’s an approach of transforming one thing to another.

Your approach to creating art is dynamic. You respond with flexibility, shifting your initial values to embrace a more complex view that hosts many elements of thought to bring down barriers of distinction among those elements. Do you consider yourself a flexible open person in life as well?


I have been a practicing Buddhist for many years; one of the things this leads to is that one becomes less interested in the distinctions between this and that.  I’m not interested in barriers, so I can move between things that others may find think of as very different. And a lot of what I do is to show up to the problem with whatever point of view I have and apply it.
I probably consider myself more open and flexible than others do. 
Also I may be more open than flexible because the way I do things requires discipline so it means that I may have to say “No” to people who want me to do something else.


Having created in many mediums (clay, paint, steel, fiber) and produced many objects/items, what do you still yearn to do now at 72?

I have way more ideas than I could ever actually physically execute. I would like to have a big pile of money so I could hire a bunch of people to do them. And what I would really like to make is big sculpture, monster steel things with gold inside. That would be fun. Also it would be interesting to revisit utilitarian ceramics because it is where I started.
It’s almost a continuation of all things and of course there is an economic piece to all of it since I stopped teaching 40 years ago and now I am focused on sustaining my studio.

As I get older, I clearly have less energy. I am slowly deteriorating physically although I still suffer from attacks of euphoria.

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