We had the good fortune of connecting with Benjamin Brockman and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Benjamin, we’d love to hear what makes you happy.
As long as I can remember I’ve been at my happiest when if the process of creating things. There is something about the blank space, the thrill of making those first marks – or taking the first steps towards manifesting and idea I’ve had for awhile. I love cultivating that and giving space for that with my daughter. I am really energized when I can play a part in drawing out those latent creative energies in other people, whether they are kids, other artists or adults at any level of experience – I love playing that role in the community. My art practice serves many proposes for me – lately it’s been a way to drum up money to finance other creative ventures, and in the past its bee my method of telling a story that is very dear to me – but above all it is a safe place for play. I like to make a mess, paint myself into a corner and try to get back out. I love spaces that are dedicated to learning new processes – especially printmaking – and flourish in those settings and communities. But facilitating exploration, play and expression – that might be the closest thing I can think of that matches my sense of purpose in the world.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I have a mixed background in film, theater, video, printmaking, drawing, painting, street art and a bit of puppetry as well. Everything I do seems intrinsically related to nature in some way, and in particular, the tenuous relationship between people and the natural worlds. I started doing research on Chernobyl in college many years ago and was really inspired by the idea that this man-made construct – and entire village and a power plant, could fall into to ruin, become uninhabitable to people – yet all these years later prove to be a sanctuary for wildlife. I began to think of that as a model for our planet as well – a tiny apocalypse, albeit one with ramifications we still do not completely understand. And yet to see those place slowly repopulate with wildlife – nature flourishes in those reclaimed areas. I have just always been drawn to that. I used to love scoping out abandoned structures on the dirt roads in Oklahoma as a kid, to see how the elements have reclaimed those structures – and how time changes human debris. So, then I started thinking about what kinds of animals would re-inhabit our urban landscapes if something like that happened on a larger scale, and this narrative started to emerge. I gravitated towards animals like rabbits because they repopulate so quickly, and because the hold such rich symbolic meaning – but also insects life moths and butterflies. I’d say that there is still a considerable amount of work to be made just exploring that post-human landscape, and it’s still something I get excited about. In the last two years or so I have focused on building a little business doing watercolors and woodcuts of insects. Mostly pollinators and endangered species of butterflies and moths, bees, etc. This has been a really rewarding departure for me and it helps to bring in a little money by selling smaller work to fund my loftier goals. I really want to put together a good printmaking workshop, which may eventually lead to a small storefront a ways down the road. I always enjoy blurring the line between art and commerce – and I’ve learned a lot by mass producing small works. It is super rewarding sending them out around the country to old friends or selling them locally at markets to new friends. It’s time consuming – but definitely a labor of love, and ultimately I think it ties right into my overall creative process quite nicely. There will be a time soon when I will want to get back to paintings and prints that are directly representative of the narrative I mentioned earlier – but I’m having fun right now – and it’s just such a damn shame so many artsy folks don’t see just how damned important that is.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
This is a hard question during the pandemic and I’m still new to Tucson – so I’m constantly discovering. Having a kid – we take our daughter to Reid Park from time to time to check out the ducks and turtles. Before I moved here I would come to visit my parents and I would always hit up all of the Bookman’s locations (still frequently do). I’d love to take friends to Casa Video to the bar during a screening/food truck thing. I don’t drink but I’d love show that place off to friends from out of town. The Loft might be my favorite Tucson institution – and I recently saw Evil Dead there with friends which was just such a treat. We usually take guests to Welcome Diner too. Tucson is such a neat place because it it so full of hidden gems – I’m constantly hearing of new places and things here in town that I am stunned I didn’t know about. Tucson OddCon is one of the coolest events I’ve been to in the area – local vendors that make weird art. and lots of vintage oddities natural curiosities and taxidermy type stuff. If you’re a little morbidly curious like me) it’s the perfect spot to shop. I’ve long admired Pop-Cycle for it’s business model – and would love to sell there some day.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
There are so many people I think of when I think of where I am at today – but I have to say teachers are probably the most crucial. I have had so many great mentors and teachers in the past, whether they are in my formal schooling or people I look to for guidance and support in my personal life. The best teachers I have had have shown me an example of a way to live, not just to do and think it make any specific thing. As someone who has always insisted on blazing my own trail, the people I think of the most are the people who made me feel like that was ok – and not only ok but in fact a great asset. That was important growing up, and honestly, I think we lose our best artists because they do not get the right kind of encouragement or are turned off by comparing themselves to other people’s successes or abilities. If a kid says they want to be an artist professionally, it is met with resistance, because our culture still has not made that kind of space for creators – it is mostly reserved for people who do not really have to work. So, I have been lucky to be supported by friends and family, and had some people show me how to live an artist’s way of life. And though I still must support myself and my family in other ways – the art thing is still what drives me. My family just moved to Tucson last year and I have already met some inspiring artists here. That is so crucial. There are a lot of possibilities for artists here, and that is an important aspect of any community I choose to live in.
Other: Patreon: www.patreon.com/benjaminbrockman Etsy: www.etsy.com/shop/TheSacredTrust
All images are copyright by the artist, Benjamin D Brockman