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Studio Visit :: Ben Sanders :: Graves of Craving

Ben Sanders is a visual artist born in 1989 who lives and works in Los Angeles, California. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Art Center College of Design in 2013. His practice is centered around painting and drawing, but he also works in the fields of photography, sculpture, printmaking, art direction and commercial illustration. We met last year at one of our first openings through a few mutual friends who were attending Art Center with him. We’re extremely excited to be hosting his first solo exhibition: “Graves Of Craving” next Friday, May 9 at Slow Culture. Initially inspired by bowls of pho, these food related works chronicle Sanders’ growing interest into the processes of gastronomy and their overlapping connection to artistic production. A study into his fascination with culinary technique using the subject matter as a jumping off point for formal and material experimentation.

You can bet we’ve had plenty a meetings over lunch or dinner. Taking one another to new favorite spots and hidden gems. We actually just came from pho before this visit. We had a blast getting an exclusive sneak peek at his upcoming works for the show and getting to hear insight into his process. Without further ado, here’s our visit with Ben straight from his studio in Pasadena, CA.

Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Ben Sanders. I am a visual artist who lives and works in Los Angeles. Recently I’ve mostly been making paintings, but I also make drawings, photographs, prints, and sculptures. I also make illustrations for commercial clients like Bloomberg and The New York Times. In 2013, I founded a collective called Those People, which is a collaborative project that produces work in the fields of art direction, design, and photography.

When did you decide you wanted be an artist?  What led you to pursue an art career?
I had always been interested in art and making stuff when I was a kid. I got really interested with art in middle school, and took like every art class available at my high school. My dad is a welder/blacksmith, and having a parent who is a self employed craftsman makes the decision to be an artist more realistic because you kind of grow up witnessing somebody make a living doing what they love. I just loved art, and it never really occurred to me not to try and do it professionally.

How do you describe your style of art?
I used to try and answer this question, but now I’m not so sure I should. I mean, in real life, when someone asks me this question, I just pull out my phone and show them an image.

What’s the concept behind your show “Graves Of Craving”?
Graves of Craving is a body of work all about food and its relationship to other aspects of life, like faith, race, currency, language, and art. When I started it, I really wanted to make work that was simply about stuff I liked, and have that be the only real conceptual underpinning. It’s about my interest in food as a subject for art, but as I made the paintings it has become an exploration of the area where techniques from both art and cooking overlap. For example, when I made these paintings, I would paint a plate or a vessel on the panel. Then I would have all these pre-dried pieces of acrylic and tubes of oil lying around, kind of like ingredients in a mise en place. The composition would be assembled with these ingredients fairly quickly, as if I was plating the food onto a plate. So the process of making these paintings sort of became like an abstract version of cooking.

Can you tell us a bit about your studio Nina Street?  It seems like you all are good friends and work together really well.
Nina Street is the studio I share with four other artists: Dyami O’Brien, Ayumi Takahashi, Josh Schaedel, and Edward Cushenberry. We all went to Art Center in Pasadena together. There is a lot of creative energy and a lot of talent under one roof. It’s a very supportive studio. When any of us have visitors, we all make sure they see everyone’s work. Everyone’s work is very different too, which is good because it means that the spectrum of influence is very wide.

Who are “Those People” and what do you guys do?  Do you approach it the same way as your fine art?
So far, Those People are myself, Josh, and Ayumi. I have plans for projects with other artists in the future, and when that happens they will be one of Those People too. So far, we have done photo illustration projects for Bloomberg, as well as art direction and photography for other brands. It’s intentionally collaborative and would be impossible for any of us to do alone. Everyone involved treats it as something separate from their personal practice, and because of that we are able to be a lot looser and more receptive to each other’s ideas without feeling like we have uneven stakes in the project. It’s purposefully a lot lighter and goofier than our personal styles of working because it’s primarily about having fun, and if someone wants to pay us to do it, that’s just gravy.

Who is your dream collaboration in any field or industry?
Fergus Henderson.