The Changing Creative Voice: A Sculptor's Transition to Atmospheric Painting

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The Changing Creative Voice: A Sculptor's Transition to Atmospheric Painting

Diverse genres and media within the broad field of visual arts provide singular opportunities for artistic expression and investigation, breaking down barriers and enthralling viewers with multisensory experiences. Among these, moody paintings and thoughtful sculptures stand out as significant forms that arouse feelings, subvert expectations, and encourage introspection.

Painting with Atmosphere
Frequently confused with tonal painting, atmospheric painting captures the spirit and atmosphere of a scene beyond simple realism. Rather than strictly conforming to reality, artists using this technique concentrate capturing the whole mood and essence of a scene. They create compositions that transport viewers to an emotional realm and entice them to have a visceral feel of the subject by using delicate brushstrokes and subdued color palettes.

Atmospheric Painting's Legacy
The origins of atmospheric painting can be seen in the works of notable artists like J.M.W. Turner and the Hudson River School. These artists aimed to portray the fleeting relationship between light and atmosphere, giving their landscapes a sense of profound serenity mixed with overwhelming grandeur. Their creations take viewers beyond simple visual representation and into a world where the breathtaking beauty of nature is paramount.

Artists like Sylvia Benitez continue the ambient painting legacy seen on the rise in contemporary art by pushing the limits of the medium and experimenting with novel methods and techniques. Within these tonal oils, Benitez creates landscape driven, atmospheric interpretations of indeterminate place, calling to mind a contemporary Hudson River School Romanticism in partnership with a Turner-like luminosity. Less specific than the Romantic 18th century contributions, Benitez uses a more amorphic, veiled approach to suggest light, place and emotion, obfuscating the importance of place. This ambiguity allows for broader viewer interpretation, elevating the work from mere representation into personal visual voice. Benitez establishes the connection to landscape through composition, using recognizable natural form as the work’s grounding foundation. This formula ultimately helps anchor the viewer’s understanding of what is, in all, an abstracted landscape. Her immersive paintings entice visitors to surround themselves in the beauty of a suggested natural world through her sophisticated use of color and texture.

Through shape and gesture, sculpture has the ability to convey universal truths and experiences beyond language and cultural boundaries. Oddly enough sculpture installation can also act as an agent for change, mutability and emergence of new artistic voice. In this case it laid the groundwork for Benitez’s eventual emergence as a painter.

Early on she frequently combined aspects of architecture, environment, and interactivity investigating the relationship between space, form, and the viewer something painting also does. In her previous sculpture Sylvia Benitez investigated issues of sustainability– the relationship between humans and the earth. The artist said in her catalog of work presented at the Museo de Historia, Anthropologia y Arte, “I have been interested for many years in early domestic creations of indigenous cultures. The primitive, as meaning the earliest or original stage or state, the archetypal, characterizing simplicity or crudity and pertaining to early stages in the evolution of human culture, is of primary importance to my art making. Often while making sculpture, I feel the energy and force of our ancestors. I become the hunter, the pioneer, the discoverer, the one who names.” Her use of natural materials like bamboo, baling twine, and wild grapevine results in visually arresting and intellectually stimulating pieces. Her sculptures evoke contemplation on the viewer's relationship to nature and the effects of human activity on the environment. This is also evident in her recent paintings of the undomesticated virgin terrain.

Benitez's artistic development to the 2-d is evident in the smooth transition from sculpture installations to atmospheric paintings, demonstrating evolution in her creative expression. This is seen in her sculpture "Sīt," a replica of the famous Delaware bridge, which mesmerized audiences at the Delaware Center for Contemporary Art in 2006. This installation laid the groundwork for her later transition to painting. "Sīt,"included thirty landscape painting paired with the linear bridge installation. These paintings depicted the landscape near the surrounding area. This pairing pinpoints Benitez's burgeoning interest in painting. Captivated by this combination of 2-d and 3-d work under the umbrella of installation, she continued combining paintings with installation. in 2010 The painting direction overtook the sculpture, and she abandoned it to focus solely on atmospheric painting. Her gradual evolvement into a painter marks a conscious decision and learned understanding of voice and style and brand. Here her unwavering dedication to artistic expression and discovery, demonstrates artistic intent, skill and her adaptability in a variety of media. She said about this transition, “Instead of using land found material to create works on land, my worked morphed to painting the land.”

Visual Arts Pioneer Sylvia Benitez
American visual artist Sylvia Benitez was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on June 27, 1957. She is well-known for her contributions to atmospheric painting and sculptural installations. Benitez's artistic career started at the University of Maryland, where she studied under renowned instructors including Dr. David C. Driskell and Martin Puryear. After earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, she moved immediately to NYC.
Part of New York City’s Lower East Side art explosion during the early 1980s, Benitez adopted the ideas of Arte Povera, an avant-garde movement that promoted the use of unusual materials and found objects in artmaking. The Fluxus Art movement in the 60s and 70s furthered this, and the newest incarnation of young 1980 Lower East Side artists took up the baton. The groundwork for Benitez's unique artistic style was established during this time of experimenting, which is evident in the inventive ways she used local flora and found materials to create her sculptures.

Benitez frequent use of invasive flora such as phragmites, bamboo, kudzu, wild grapevine, paired with farmer's baling twine became her signature. Her sculpture installations invited visitors to reflect on their relationship with the natural world by examining topics of sustainability, nature, and the human connection to the land.
The establishment of The Gentileschi Aegis Gallery Association (GAGA) in 2011, a nonprofit organization devoted to promoting and supporting women artists of South Texas, is one of Benitez's noteworthy accomplishments. GAGA, which bears the name of Artemisia Gentileschi, a renowned female artist of the Baroque era, provides a launch pad for women artists to show their work, earn visibility, and gain access to opportunities and resources in the art world. Benitez's persistent activism (a throwback to her formative Lower East Side years) and today’s leadership within the art community are clear testaments to her devotion to encouraging women artists’ expression. She has established a welcoming and fostering atmosphere through GAGA, where their voice flourishes.

Apart from her association with GAGA, Benitez's creative endeavors have received extensive praise and acknowledgment. Among the many honors and grants she has been bestowed with are two Pollock-Krasner Foundation prizes, an Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Individual Support Grant, two National Endowment for the Arts Visiting Artist Fellowships, and an Association Internationale des Critiques d'Art (AICA Puerto Rico Chapter) award for best installation. Beyond her personal works, Benitez's artistic legacy includes her work as a teacher, mentor, and supporter of the arts. She has made a lasting impact on the visual arts community with her inventive approach to atmospheric painting and sculptural installations, as well as her commitment to empowering artists. Amidst numerous exhibitions that Sylvia has carried out, she also has an upcoming solo exhibition in September 2024: Hunt Gallery in San Antonio entitled, "The Kind of September” that incorporates a new body of atmospheric painting.

In summary, sculptural installations and atmospheric paintings are potent visual art expressions that have the capacity to provoke strong feelings, alter people's perspectives, and motivate action. Artists such as Sylvia Benitez are prime examples of the transforming power of these genres, using their artistic abilities to delve deeper into difficult subjects and captivate audiences. They uplift our spirits, spark our imaginations, and serve as a constant reminder of the wonder and intricacy of the world we live in.

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The Changing Creative Voice: A Sculptor's Transition to Atmospheric Painting

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