Shifting Landscapes: Regina Benson

form & concept
May 10, 2017 9:04PM

Unboxing the artwork for our Shifting Landscapes exhibition was a delightfully surprising process. Jurors Frank Rose and Erika Lynne Hanson digitally sorted through hundreds of submissions from Surface Design Association members who are scattered across the world. Seeing a small image of an artwork on a glowing screen is very different from lifting it out of a crate.

Case in point: Regina Benson's artwork for the show, V Restored Legacy, is an art quilt with a sculptural twist. There’s a shadow visible in the image that Regina sent us, but only when the work was on the wall did we fully understand the mesmerizing power of its dimensional qualities. The piece is designed to project from the wall and into the gallery, encouraging visitors to view it at multiple angles.

To create her artwork, the Golden, Colorado artist utilizes her knowledge of painting, drawing, surface design, engineering and architecture. Regina was in Santa Fe for the opening reception of Shifting Landscapes in February, and we interviewed her about her work. Scroll down to read our conversation, and click here to view more artwork from Shifting Landscapes on Artsy.

Regina Benson
V Restored Legacy, 2016
form & concept

form & concept: Tell us about your medium. How did you get into quilting?

Regina Benson: I’m working with the concept of layering cloths, canvases, or papers. I can’t say it was a conscious decision. It’s just an outgrowth of the process of working with textiles. Some of my work qualifies as art quilting because of the layering techniques. It’s not always art quilting, because I do a lot of single layering, or different kinds of manipulations of textiles.

f&c: When did you first start working with textiles?

RB: A very long time ago. I worked for a while at the Kansas City Art Institute in the days when Fiber 101 was the only elective. It has gotten very popular now, so it has its own department. I was dissatisfied with the lack of dimension in painting. When artists in the 70’s started ripping the canvases off the frames and draping them, I was elated. And then the thought came, why use canvas in the first place? Why not silk, why not cotton, or linen?

I also did some weaving. I would decorate, I would surface design, on my own woven cloth. Weaving your own cloth is extremely time consuming and tends to limit you. So I started making larger scale works. That forced me to try and find materials that I would purchase by the bulk and then manipulate.

f&c: Could you talk a little bit about the piece that’s in this show? I know that you’re often exploring both image making and turning these works into sculptures in their own right. Tell us about this piece and how that fits into this larger exploration.

RB: I was dealing with the concept of the remains of things, shards and remnants that are found and reassembled. I wanted the process of the making to reflect some of that itself, so the work required that I employ rust and oxide and burns. I tortured the textile.

It’s not just about objects, but the landscapes around us. You don’t see landscape as a single dimension, you see it in layers. In a small way, I was trying to convey the layering of the shards that might be discovered.
The reason I like to use Egyptian cotton for this process is that it’s a long staple cotton and it is very finely woven. Really expensive bedding is a thousand counts per inch instead of the two or four hundred thread count. That means it’s very tightly woven and it will be good for deposition of oxides and paint.

f&c: And then you actually paint on top of it?

RB: I do. I’m using substances just like a painter would, to make the marks and contain them. I’ll also burn it, and then treat it so that it becomes permanent on the cloth. Otherwise, it would flake away.

f&c: Why remains? Where did that line of thought come from?

RB: I’m Lithuanian, and our language is related to Sanskrit. I have been exploring what is left of our culture. I’m looking at the things I have to gather and assemble to keep and pass on. I try to do that as much as I can, visually. Sometimes it speaks to other people the way I envision it, and sometimes not. But it’s always interesting for me to hear.

f&c: It was a nice surprise for us at the gallery, because we had only seen images of it. We didn’t fully understand how big it was, and that it was going to extend from the wall.

RB: It’s actually one of my smaller pieces, so thank you for saying it’s large scale. The shadowing is sometimes critical to the work, because it encourages people to go up and look underneath and look around.

f&c: It definitely does encourage exploration. If you’re really close to it, there’s a topographical quality to it. And then from the side or farther back there’s a different effect.

RB: It’s a conversation that I hope we get involved with. And obviously, many of the artists in the show are as well. It’s a beautiful show, I’m glad to be part of it.

Click here to see more artwork from Shifting Landscapes, and see the show at form & concept in Santa Fe through May 20.

form & concept