(Note: This is an older post republished for this blog.)

From “Mr Benja’s Ice Cream Social” in North Park, San Diego.

Hearts, hats, weapons, tools, fruit, candy, icons, symbols, … I use all of these to empower life through art. Just a little push to get through the day. A focal point for the thoughts of the month. A reminder that this year will be better. In general, as a way to empower myself and others. Might sound goofy, but it’s true. I realized the power of ar when I was younger and traveling with my parents. They took me to the Picasso museum in Spain so that we could all experience something great. I didn’t know what I was really looking at, but they patiently informed me that I was viewing really important artwork. I took their word for it, but I didn’t get it. I just guessed he was famous.

At the end of our art day, we found ourselves inside the museum café. I noticed a napkin with an image of a house on it and wanted to know who’s drawing was on it. It was an extremely adept sketch and it was on a disposable cloth! Wait. It was an early Picasso work? You mean the SAME guy with the grotesque paintings we’d seen all day did this as a kid? Everything changed. I felt like I knew nothing about how the world worked.

That small work of art shifted my entire paradigm. Everything I thought I knew about life had changed in one brief moment. That may sound like hyperbole, but these artists and their weren’t exactly real to me until then. The context in the art had now been made clear. I was now connected to the most primal forces of the universe. I was connected. Hell, I felt like the food critic in Ratatouille. (You know the scene I’m talking about.)

So to this day, the lesson of the napkin still sticks with me. It was a symbol of learning, travel, skill, misinterpretation, abstraction, wisdom, guidance, and so much else boiled down into a microcosm of lines on paper. Ever since that moment, I started making a conscious effort to keep things in my environment that powered me up and connected me in some way.

Art is functional and important to me. It can touch lives. So as pretentious as it may sound, I want to invigorate the observer with tangible sensations. Or maybe it’s just halfway decent wall candy. Hopefully though, when you walk past a piece of art, you get powered up.
– Mr Benja –


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