braveART Takes On! | FRANCISCO BENITEZ / by Tasha Ostrander

Francisco Benitez in the Studio, Santa Fe 

Francisco Benitez in the Studio, Santa Fe 

braveART is pleased to take on: Francisco Benitez. Benitez (b. 1967) was raised in New Mexico, New York, and Spain. His mother, flamenco dancer and choreographer, María Benítez, and his father, a Spanish set designer, Cecilio Benítez, influenced his subsequent interest in tenebrist painting and baroque art. Benítez studied Classics at St. John’s College (Santa Fe), and then academic painting techniques and anatomy/figure drawing at the Art Student’s League in New York City. Benítez subsequently obtained his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of New Mexico, during which time he studied abroad at the Facultad de Bellas Artes in Granada, Spain, through an exchange program, and later did graduate-level independent study.

Of his own work, Benitez writes....

Oftentimes, when people see my work for the first time, they might be fooled into thinking I’m a very traditional artist who is somewhat retrograde and wants to return to the past. I am anything but. Although I have always had a deep regard and attraction to the art of the past, I have wanted to connect it to today’s systems of thought and political psychosocial realities.

What began as a metaphorical archaeological dig into the techniques, methods, and iconographies of the past, has morphed into a conceptual project whereby I become a sort of chameleon, continually adapting my style(s) to deconstruct the historical trappings of said styles, in order to lay bare certain realities which led to their initial creation and implementation.

My recent project, Doña Inés Lost Her Slipper”, describes the relationship between a Spanish aristocrat landed in the New World, and her Indigenous maidservant. In that multi-media project I expanded my repertoire beyond traditional oil painting to mixed media techniques, installation, and video. With the paintings in particular, I juxtaposed power images of the aristocrat, executed in the techniques of the 18th century, with highly expressionistic, Modernist images of the maidservant, therefore highlighting the West’s fascination with Primitivism and the colonial power images which were witnesses to Primitivism’s development in the first place. The project also explored the relationship of the two women to each other, and their place as women in a highly patriarchal, colonial culture whose vestiges remain very clear today in our post-industrial cultural landscape.

My featured blog piece, “Two Doña Inés in an Industrial Landscape”, is a large drawing representing my main character, Doña Inés, twice in a sparse industrial landscape. I drew the initial inspiration from Frida Kahlo’s famous work where she depicts herself twice, connected by a blood vessel. In this piece, Doña Inés has her eyes and mouth covered as she faces the viewer. She is uncomfortable in her role as an aristocrat, as she embodies a social class which in her century, would lead to the mass industrialization and ecological crisis of our century. Although at the top of her social order, she is trapped by the cumbersome and confining dress she wears. Her personal identity fades into a silhouetted simulacrum for a reigning paradigm.

My ongoing work tends to focus on portraiture, especially of women with oblique references to phallocratic symbols such as smoke stacks and Greco-Roman columns. I am interested in painting my subjects as real people living today, but also as complicit collaborators or critics of the politics of art historical representation.

Je Survole le Monde, oil on canvas, 48 x 60 in.

Je Survole le Monde, oil on canvas, 48 x 60 in.

La Contessa oil on canvas, 54 x 38 in.

La Contessa oil on canvas, 54 x 38 in.

Muse of Spheres, oil on panel, 24 x 36 in.

Muse of Spheres, oil on panel, 24 x 36 in.