Her work is powerful, graceful, larger than life. I’ve been so excited to share my interview with Benaroya with you for so long! We discuss music in the studio, song lyrics, dream meals, studio space, subway mosaics and more. Full interview on the website!
Benaroya describes her works are ‘slightly manic. Kinda always on the verge of losing control’. In three words, she sums them up as ‘figurative, vibrant and pumped up’.
Her work is imbued with such a feeling of identity and power. Embracing certain imperfections and truths. Her subjects are extensions of herself. Each of us are limited by the body we are born into, but her figures have control to expand and transform to have control over their appearances.
I am utterly obsessed with your work. I love the power and the grace behind your larger than life figures. Can you tell me about the characters you create? Who are they? What are they feeling? What does the exaggeration of body mean to you?
Thank you so much! The characters I create are often extensions of myself - though I wouldn't go as far as saying they are strictly autobiographical. I actually never think of them as one individual person - but actually they have the potential to be a stand-in for many people. Whatever emotion they are feeling, it always tends to be dialed up to the maximum volume. I think the intensity of emotion inside these figures matches the way in which I exaggerate their body.
I've always been interested in human anatomy and musculature. In reality, we are trapped and limited by the body we are born into. I love that my figures can expand and transform and meld and have complete control over the shape and appearance of their bodies.
How would you describe the energy in your paintings?
Maybe slightly manic. Kinda of always on the verge of losing control.
Ana, you were trained as an illustrator weren’t you. How do you feel this comes out in your work and now, paintings?
I was - and I worked as an illustrator for ten years before deciding to completely focus on my paintings. I think it comes out in how I think about composing an image - I always consider narrative and story-telling. I also try to blend my love of graphic culture (flat shapes, drawing and linework) and painting. The colors I choose as well I think have been heavily influenced by my years working as an illustrator. I used to color my drawings digitally - and with Photoshop you have a color palette where you essentially just click a color and use it - you never ever have to think about mixing a color. I suppose the parallel to this with painting would be using color straight out of the tube - something I do quite often.
Who or what are your biggest inspirations, and how do you think these come out in your work?
This is always such a hard question because the list is so long. There's obviously artists whose work I'm obsessed with: Carrol Dunham, Robert Colescott, The Chicago Imagists, Nicole Eisenman, Robert Crumb, Tom of Finland, Henri Matisse, Francis Bacon, Pierre Bonnard...it could go on forever haha. And also I get inspired by my friends who I am always sharing my work with and getting their feedback: Rebecca Ness, Blair Whiteford, Dominic Chambers, Marina Kharkover, Ahu Sulker.
Music and song lyrics often-times play a role in how I title my works or give me ideas for paintings. And then honestly, my day to day life and my interactions with strangers and people I love is a huge source of inspiration for my work.
What is your studio like? Where do you like to create best? What are your artist necessities? What could you not live without?
My studio is pretty small actually. But I like to think it's cozy, I have rugs on the floor that are covered in paint and I like decorating it with odds and ends so it feels homey. The room is pretty filled to the brim with paintings before a show. It's overwhelming but in a good way. One day I'll get a bigger space and I wonder how that will affect my work.
I think one of my artist necessities is for my studio to feel comfortable and homey (as I described above). And I absolutely need a window. I spend so much time there it needs to be a non-depressing space.
Do you listen to anything while you work Ana, in your wonderful small studio?
Almost always music. Sometimes podcasts, but very rarely. If it is a podcast it would be an artist interview. Never EVER the news. The music varies greatly depending on my mood...but currently I've been listening to Ace of Base, Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Annie Lennox, Arthur Russell, and various oldies from the 50s and 60s.
I love that! I’m such a Presley fan! So, what does an average working day look like to you?
I get up usually around 7 or 7:30, have breakfast and coffee and head to the studio. Then I usually paint until 11 or 12 and have my second cup of coffee, paint a little more, and eventually take lunch. I usually can only work for a couple more hours after lunch - so I tend to head back home by 5 or 6. It does vary slightly depending on the day...but I like to keep a somewhat regular "work day."
Ana, what 3 words would you use to describe your artwork?
Figurative, vibrant, pumped-up
Could you please pick a piece of your work, and tell me a bit about it?
"I Feel Love, I Feel Love" - This painting is 130 cm x 200 cm and is a mixture of spray paint, acrylic paint, and oil paint on canvas.
The title is from a Donna Summer song (which you may have already guessed - "I Feel Love"). This was one of the larger paintings I made in a series of couples I painted for my two person show with Peter Saul this summer in the Hamptons. I started this work with the idea that the red woman would be totally encapsulated by the green woman's body. I liked the idea of the green woman's body becoming a sort of horizon line. Then the pink hand got added in - which I think could either be the red woman's or perhaps another person's hand.
Because of their pose and their direct eye contact with the "camera" - and the light flares in the background - this painting ended up feeling quite contemporary to me. Almost as though these women were taking a selfie at a concert. I think this painting is somewhat of an outlier in that sense - oftentimes I think my paintings seem to take place in another time.
In the reflection in their eyes you can faintly make out the silhouette of another woman.
One of my favourites! Thank you. What memorable responses have you had to your work? And which artwork would you like people to remember you for?
For my solo show in LA at Richard Heller Gallery I met another artist named Skye Volmar who came to the opening. A few weeks later she wrote the most wonderful response/description to my work and it really meant so much to me.
I honestly don't know if I could choose one for people to remember me by. Hopefully it's one I haven't made yet.
Ana, what are you working on now?
I'm working on paintings, drawings, and a sculpture for my upcoming solo show in NYC at Ross + Kramer Gallery in November. It's been a really productive time for me - and I'm so excited to show all the work together.
What would be your dream project Ana?
I've always wanted to do one of those NYC subway mosaics.
If you could have a meal with any artist from any time, what would the meal be and who would it be with?
Probably Andy Warhol - the meal would be hamburgers and fries.
Favourite historical female artist?
A CLASSIC! WONDERFUL! FAVOURITE CURRENT PRACTICING FEMALE ARTISTS (AS MANY AS YOU LIKE?)?
Nicole Eisenman, Dana Schutz, Charline von Heyl, Katherine Bradford, Ruby Neri...I'm sure I'm forgetting many!!
WHO SHOULD SHE CURATES INTERVIEW NEXT?