ArtArt Interviews

Artist spotlight: Fred Bendheim

Fred Bendheim was born in Phoenix, Arizona in 1956. He has lived and worked in Brooklyn, NY since 1984. As a teenager, he apprenticed with the pioneer surrealist painter, Philip Curtis, and has since had numerous shows and works in collections world- wide including: The Museum of Arts & Design, NY; The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; The National Gallery of Costa Rica; The Instituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti, Venice, Italy; The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, The Plotkin Museum, The Brooklyn Public Library, NY; Denise Bibro Fine Art, NY; Jason Mccoy Gallery, Bradley International Airport, Los Angeles, CA; The Mayo Center for Humanities, Scottsdale, AZ. His commissions include sculptures for Frank Lloyd Wright buildings and paintings for the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, among others. His past art has taken the form of large room-sized installations, outdoor billboards with children’s art, sculptures, and fountains made with many materials, as well as mural-sized drawings. Additionally, he has written articles about art for the British journal The Lancet and he has taught at the Art Students League and The College of Mt. Saint Vincent in New York City. According to a recent artist statement:

My current work spans the boundaries between painting and sculpture that have taken the form of abstract, shaped paintings and relief sculptures, usually on PVC, or shapings. My subjects are usually abstract, but they are physically and psychically real: they are made of forms, lines, colors and their relationships to each other and the spaces that they inhabit. My work is based on principles, so I do not rely only on the precedence of my own work, or the work of other artists. I work using a combination of intuition and visual principles of composition. I try to keep my art alive, fresh, spontaneous and challenging. I find working in a non-rectangular format gives me a freedom to express visual impulses, and allows for surprising results. I have worked in various media and sizes, from installations in entire buildings to the intimate in scale. I imagine the sum of my work, throughout the 40 plus years of its making, as something living, like a tree, with many varied branches.

Recently Fred Bendheim spoke to the Examiner about his experiences as an artist and his hopes for the future:

Meagan Meehan (M.M.) of Entertainment Vine: How and when did you decide to become an artist?

Fred Bendheim (F.B.): I grew up in the desert in Arizona. As a child I enjoyed drawing, carving wood and collecting rocks and making sculpture. When I was a teenager, I decided to become an artist. Like most people, I had a romantic notion about that. I had no idea really what was involved, the hard and solitary work. I was interested in the art that we had in our home, and in the museums that I visited: mostly modern art and Native American art. When I was about 17, I apprenticed with Philip Curtis, who was the most important artist in Arizona at that time. He was a surrealist painter who was handicapped and needed help with chores, and I was interested in surrealism then, in the works of Dali, Magritte and Max Ernst. Philip showed me how to gesso panels for his paintings and how to make glazes, and I got to drive his big, bright-orange Buick around to get supplies for him.

M.M.: Growing up, which artists/types of art interested you?

F.B.: In Arizona we had the cowboy artists and the Indian artists, and I was definitely in the Indian camp. Also, I liked the Surrealists, Frank Lloyd Wright and Robert Smithson and other earthwork artists, Jackson Pollock, who also lived in Arizona.

M.M.: How would you describe your work and what inspires it?

F.B.: Generally, I would describe my work as “showing what’s on the inside” or “making the invisible visible”. Lately this has taken the form of mostly abstract, shaped paintings and sculpture, aesthetic hybrids that I call “shapings”. Mostly, I am inspired by working: by riding my bike to the studio through industrial Brooklyn, and by drawing. I am inspired by other artists who push the boundaries of their work and make surprising things. Just being alive can be inspirational; it’s better than the other option.

M.M.: How did you go about getting into galleries?

F.B.: Sometimes by invitation and sometimes through friends.

M.M.: How did you get involved with the 440 Gallery?

F.B.: One of the artist members invited me to apply.

M.M.: Do you have a favorite piece? If so, which one and why?

F.B.: In my current show, “A Retrospective On The Theme Of Water”, I am proud of all of the works, I can’t say I have a favorite piece. However, the earliest painting from 1978, “The Red Wave” I will not sell. It has a mystery that is special for me, as well as containing certain feelings of nostalgia that I am attached to, hopefully not in an unhealthy way.

M.M.: What are your mediums of choice?

F.B.: Whatever does the job. Most recently PVC, which I work like wood, cutting, shaping and painting.

M.M.: Are there any mediums that you haven’t worked with yet but hope to soon?

F.B.: I plan to learn metal welding soon. I am also interested in cut paper as a medium.

M.M.: To date, what has been the most rewarding experience involving your artwork and/or being an artist?

F.B.: Working in my studio here and in Costa Rica. Making things is a rewarding experience. It is stimulating for me and connects myself to the world in a positive way.

M.M.: What advice would you give to someone who is aspiring to become an artist?

F.B.: Find your satisfaction in your work. Don’t rely on others to give you satisfaction or validation as an artist. Be friendly to people.

M.M.: Are there any upcoming projects and/or events that you would like to mention?

F.B.: I have a painting that will be on display as part of the permanent collection at The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. The show is called, Wild Thing: Adventures With The Permanent Collection, May 19 – September 16, 2018. Three “tondo” paintings are on display at 440 Gallery, Brooklyn, through May 26, 2018. I just had a painting accepted into the permanent collection of The Montclair (NJ) Art Museum. I have a commissioned painting installed in Neiman Marcus, Long Island, NY.

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To learn more about Fred visit his official website and Facebook.

Meagan Meehan

Meagan J. Meehan is a published author, poet, cartoonist and produced playwright. She pens columns for the Great South Bay Magazine, Examiner and AXS. She is also a stop motion animator and an award-winning abstract artist. Meagan holds a Bachelors in English Literature and a Masters of Communication. She is an animal advocate and a fledging toy and game designer.
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