Briefly describe the work you do.
I work across the visual, performing and culinary arts to explore how our comforts and expectations shift as we move between home and away places. I’ve recently made a vanishing cookbook, a trio of custom fragrances, and a pocket-sized travel memoir.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
I was raised near the beach, which has influenced my vernacular. I studied across the Communication Studies and Studio Art departments, which has influenced my enthusiasm in disciplinary flexibility. In grad school I studied performance art, which has influenced my practice that is grounded in liveness and the (undervalued) sensing body. I have amazing parents, which continues to influence my every-day optimism.
The concept of the “artist studio” has a broad range of meanings, especially in contemporary practice. The idea of the artist toiling away alone in a room may not necessarily reflect what many artists do from day to day anymore. Describe your studio practice and how it differs from (or is the same as) traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
Only recently have I begun to embrace and respect a more traditional idea of a “studio practice,” though I spend a substantial amount of time working outside the studio, mostly reaching out to professionals outside of the art world with research questions or invitations for collaboration.
What unique roles do you see yourself as the artist playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
I’m practicing being a patient communicator for a community of inpatient viewers.
When do you find is the best time of day to make art? Do you have time set aside every day, every week or do you just work whenever you can?
As long as I have something to write with and write on, any time is the best time to (art) work. I have a full-time job, which determines when I can sneak into the studio… or not. Sometimes writing for thirty minutes at a cafe or going on a walk is as productive as being in the studio for hours.
How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?
In the past five years, my work has changed in my abandonment of a faithfulness to a single material. What has resoundingly remained is my role as a director.
Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?
Cookbooks are tools for instruction, objects for the home, precursors in sharing a meal with another, and invitations to honor a cultural history with the gut. Cookbooks continue to have a profound impact on my intentions as a maker.
If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?
I have an occupation outside of being an artist: a full-time college professor. And it’s the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. Eventually, I’d like to try other occupations: a food and travel writer or sound producer perhaps.
Erik Benjamins has recently collaborated with a classically trained perfumer, husband-and-wife vocalists, and a few nationally-acclaimed chefs. Lately, he’s found great inspiration from the home place, the away place, language, the color orange, and the sensing body. Erik received his MFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston/Tufts University and his BA from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, CA. He is a member of ABC [Artists’ Books Cooperative], an internationally-based cohort of artists working in and around printed matter. Erik has exhibited in some museums, galleries, art book fairs, alternative art spaces, and a restaurant.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.
Very nice interview. I like it. Am always interested in knowing more about artists and their work, their aspirations.