Tomorrow night the Contemporary Art Museum is hosting Art 314, a silent auction and party benefiting CAM’s Open Studios STL program and Front Room exhibition series. The silent auction features a diverse group of over 25 St. Louis artists with works starting at $200. Participating artists receive 50% of all proceeds from their work, making it a great way to add to or start your art collection whle supporting the St. Louis art community. The silent auction features a diverse group of over 25 St. Louis artists with works starting at $200. Participating artists receive 50% of all proceeds from their work, making it a great way to add to or start your art collection whle supporting the St. Louis art community.
I was lucky enough to connect with Heather Bennett, one of the featured artists. Her focus is to point out the extremities we employ in categorizing female imagery in contemporary society. Far from a one to one relationship, her images attempt to reveal the embodied subjecthood of the female protagonist within a typical clichéd narrative scene where her presence as the object is assumed. Bennett frames her commentary in symbols, arranging them as if a story existed, pulling the viewer in with familiar language, then subtly breaking it up. The artist uses storytelling as a tool, hinting at a familiar narrative structure while simultaneously denying it. The revelation of the subject is achieved through denial. I adore her highly stylized, gritty-glam point of view.
I asked Ms. Bennett a few questions about herself and her work to share with you….What inspires you when deciding subject matter?
My work is about revealing the subjecthood of the female protagonist, who is often treated as an object in the contemporary media which my images mimic. I use narrative assumptions and tropes to change the focus within these known or familiar stereotypical scenarios. The images are really symbolic, the narratives are hollow, a kind of set-up for the viewer to get at something else, a societal culpability. Myself included in that culpability, of course.
I am dying to know who the models are! Friends? Randoms?
I am very often the subject/ model of the images. This is a structural quotation of 70’s artists, such as Hanna Wilke and Cindy Sherman, who used and refetishized their own bodies to transform the object of the photo to the artist subject. The other people in my work are close friends and family, never randoms. These aren’t portraits but fictions which I create and into which I place people in my life or fictions which came to me with these people already in mind. Everything in my work is composed, not much left to chance. There is no reference to the real, except with regards to the position of the woman in contemporary culture. Even though the characters in my images are fictitious fictions, I believe the real intimacy of the players/participants can show up on film and be the difference between a good photograph and a great one. The woman in my recent photograph, On the Road- Jeanne, which I have included in Art:314 for CAM is my sister, Jeanne.
How easy/difficult is it for an artist in St. Louis to make a name for themselves?
I think it is quite difficult. I just moved back to St. Louis a few years ago after living in New York for 13 years. I went to Hunter College in New York for graduate school. I was picked up by my main gallery, Stephan Stoyanov Gallery, there in 2001.
Who is your fantasy model and where would you shoot them?
I don’t have a fantasy model. I already shoot exactly who I want to shoot. I am not interested in celebrity in the slightest, except as a perversion.
What is next for Heather Bennett? Where can we see more work?
Currently, I have a few works in an exhibition at William Shearburn Gallery here in St. Louis called The Pathology of Glamour which will be up until the end of the month. I also have several pieces in an exhibition entitled Dangerous Beauty, which includes an international cast of artists and opens in Sophia, Bulgaria this month. You can see my recent images and projects on my website: heatherebennett.com. In St. Louis, I am represented by Bruno David Gallery.
I am delving a lot more into video in the last 5 years and am very interested in composed sound. Musician Joe Raglani, who is based in St. Louis, wrote original tracks for a trilogy of videos that I completed in 2008, called The Empire Trilogy. I am interested in pursuing further interdisciplinary collaborations of that kind. I am also about to begin a suite of drawings, I think.
Any lady who loves 1970s glamour is a friend of mine. You can connect with Ms. Bennett through her website, but please come see Heather’s work in person as well as many other talented artists at tomorrow’s event. There will also be dancing and an open bar – what’s better than that?
Buy your tickets HERE with Discount code DDD6984.
See you tomorrow!