Q&A with artist Ben Moon by Miami Art Scene
MIAMI ART SCENE: Can you tell us about your original painting 'Artist and Model 2' that will be on display at the Scope Art Show's fourth annual installment of 'Art Takes Miami' from Dec.3-8, 2o13?
BEN MOON: Artist and Model 2 is one of the last in a series of paintings dealing with the way traditional archetypes such as the "artist and model" are so deeply ingrained in our notions of art and culture, that whether we choose to accept or reject them, their familiarity becomes the jumping off point for a dialogue. I did the first ones in a very realistic style, portraying myself, "the artist", as well as the "models", in ways which make specific references to similarly themed paintings throughout art history. As the viewer observes the obvious absurdity of the construction, when placed in a modern day context - the next logical leap one might make is to begin to consider whether these archetypes were ever any less arbitrary and "fabricated" - and it is merely our consciousness which has evolved over time. As the series continued, the realistic depictions began to give way to the more visceral deconstructed treatment you see in 'Artist and Model 2', almost as a visual representation of the crumbling away of these very constructions that have held everything together for so long. It's like this apprehension, as we sense something more primitive and savage that has been there all along, lurking just beneath the surface. I tried to capture that tension I think we all feel in the world right now.
MIAMI ART SCENE: How were you selected to be part of this special exhibit with Scope at Art Basel Miami Beach 2o13?
BEN MOON: I was involved in a very cool exhibition earlier in the year put on by the 'See.Me' Art Group, who are also the organizers of 'Art Takes Miami'. I was really impressed by what they did, creating a "mobile" exhibition during which the artwork was projected at various sites around New York City. Including Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall, MoMA, the Guggenheim, and Gagosian Gallery. Since then our relationship has steadily grown, and I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to have my work in 'Art Takes Miami'.
MIAMI ART SCENE: What was your inspiration for this painting?
BEN MOON: From the earliest time I can remember, the human form, or more specifically its relationship to the environment around it has always interested me as an artist. I recently found this old portfolio my Mother had saved, full of all these drawings I did when I was only a few years old. It was such an epiphany to see that at 3-years-old, I had already began my life's work. I knew it back then. But somehow life has a way of making us veer off course, and trade what really matters to us, for some false promise of stability that's always right around the corner. In my case it took something really radical to wake me up.
MIAMI ART SCENE: When did you decide to pursue a career in the arts and what was the path to get to this point like?
BEN MOON: Although creating art and music were all I ever truly cared about, I was actually considering entering the business school at Tulane University, because that was what everyone said I should do. In my heart I knew it wasn't my true path, but I convinced myself that this is what it meant to "grow up" and be practical. I thought I was planning for the future, but what happened next was something I hadn't planned on. A few weeks before I was supposed to return to school for my junior year, I got in a very serious car accident. So serious that I was actually dead for a period of time before they were able to successfully revive me. It was crazy. I broke everything, had to have all these surgeries. They said the injuries were so extensive that there wasn't enough data to even make any kind of long-term prognosis. After what felt like a lifetime in the hospital, I was finally able to return home, but it was still a long time before I could even leave my bed and begin the arduous journey back to health. Although this was clearly the most surreal, and difficult time in my life. I had become possessed by an experience so profound that at that point I didn't even know how to begin to fully share it with others. During the time immediately after the accident I had what might be described as a near death experience. While language fails to encompass the exact nature of the feeling, the best description I can give is like being able to look in on what we experience as reality from the "outside", almost like one of those snow globes. From this vantage point it was easy to see that most of what we experience is an illusion, and time and space were merely "useful fictions". I could see every possible permutation and outcome, and all of history, and the future happening in an infinite matrix of simultaneous dimensions - all taking place in one eternal instant beyond time. I could see that the nature of this matrix was made of information, and that there was a source from which this information emanated. Most of all, I saw myself, as I was truly meant to be. The self that I recognized in my heart when I was 3-years-old, before I forgot. I saw that I had an important role to play, and that was to act as a bridge bringing the light and energy from this source into this reality through my art. I believe we are all here for a reason, and although I still had to go through hell to get back to health, everything was different. I knew it was going to be alright. I had found myself.
MIAMI ART SCENE: How does it feel to be known as a rising star within the art world?
BEN MOON: I've been so blessed to have people in my life that have always believed in me, and been there to support me every step of the way. I think that's the part that doesn't get enough attention. It's so hard to make it these days. I know people with so much talent and promise, the tragic thing is that's not enough anymore. That person has to find some way to circumvent the system, some way to create the time and space to focus their talent, refine their thesis. Being an artist is like being a scientist conducting research. The momentary bursts of passion are part of it, but real art is more about a kind of stubborn persistence. Don't get me wrong, I'm loving every minute of being here. I know how far I've come, but I try not to dwell on that for too long.
MIAMI ART SCENE: Which artists or creatives would you say have inspired you, your style or your work?
BEN MOON: I've always been a huge fan of Warhol, but especially the group of younger artists around him such as Jean-Michelle Basquiat, Keith Haring, and Lou Reed, whose fusion of poetry, sound and image, has been perhaps the greatest influence on me. The direction my latest work has taken owes a tremendous debt to the "Plastic Inevitable", and early Factory Parties of the 196o's. I'm really inspired by almost everything. The less it's traditionally associated with "art", the better.
MIAMI ART SCENE: What tips do you have for art students and young, emerging artists out there?
BEN MOON: It's not too late to change your mind while there's still time. If you have half a lick of sense in your head you'll reconsider the terrible, insensible, impossible life you are about to embark on. But if you're really an artist, you will ignore this advice, as I once did.
MIAMI ART SCENE: Which celebrity, musician, or well-known figure would you like to meet during this year's Art Basel Miami Beach and perhaps see purchasing your work?
BEN MOON: I can't think of any celebrity that I wouldn't want to buy my work. Part of what is so great about Art Basel, and Miami, in general, for that matter, is that everyone is so accessible. There seems to be a slightly more reasonable relationship between the press and the celebrities in Miami, more of a respect for boundaries. From what I'm hearing they're taking things to a whole new level this year event wise, so I'm sure everyone who's into the "art thing" will be buzzing around this week. It should be a lot of fun.
MIAMI ART SCENE: What is the best part about being an artist?
BEN MOON: Besides this interview? The best part is that even if they may not particularly "like" you personally, people like the idea of the "Artist". It's almost like a "cowboy", this mythical figure who somehow embodies the values to which we, as a society, collectively value and aspire to. The lone hero out there on the frontier where few dare to tread. The self made man, who creates something out of nothing, and does it his way, on his time. The more these things recede into the realm of fiction and memory, the more we need the idea of "The Artist".
MIAMI ART SCENE: Can you tell us what is on the horizon after Art Basel Miami - future exhibits, events or possible collaborations in the works?
BEN MOON: Until recently, my creative output has generally taken place on the two simultaneous, yet parallel paths of painting/visual arts, as well as music and sound environments. My latest project called "Roklyfe" marks the ultimate realization of my lifelong dream of combining these two elements into one cohesive art form. Together with my creative partner Valentin Fuhrer, I've developed my own completely original art making platform, which allows the artist to "improvise" with "visual samples" in real time, the same way a Dj mixes different pieces of music to create a larger composition embodying the sum total of it's constituent elements. We debuted it at Charlotte Ronson's Party. I believe it's a real Gamechanger.