Charlotte Street Foundation identifies the needs and fuels the evolution of an ever-changing multidisciplinary arts ecosystem, acting as its primary provocateur. We cultivate the contemporary, the exceptional, and the unexpected in the practice of artists working in and engaging with the Kansas City Art Community

Resident Check In: Ben Rosenthal

What is your artistic medium?

I work predominately in experimental animation, video, sound and other new media although my practice extends into performance, drawing and object making. In this way I don’t identify with specific “media,” the materials of my practice have shifted drastically over time.

What do you hope to explore in your art during your time at Charlotte Street?

The overwhelming project that I have begun and am exploring during my time at Charlotte Street continues existing interests in complicating the boundaries between what we see as physical and what we encounter as virtual. Specifically, I am addressing what I envision as a new form of queer technosexual touch where desire is expressed and manifested by the swipe, virtual hand, and sensation of physical touch simultaneously. The animations and environments I am producing speak to an ephemeral digital and mobile sense of the “queer encounter” that are prevalent in my own experience as a gay, recently-out man. Through this exploration of physical and digital eroticism, I hope to both legitimize alternative, non-physical experiences of cyborg-intimacy and ask challenging questions about the very nature of how we interrelate alters the fabric of what queer experience and technologically-oriented sexuality reveal.

In what ways do you utilize your space for your art practice?

My studio is predominantly a space of production and sometimes research. As I commute from Lawrence nearly every day I am not teaching, I use this space as a space of separation where I can completely absorb myself in the process of making, doing and encountering without needing to consider my professional obligations that are reserved either for the school office or dining-room table. While my work is primarily on a computer that is constantly rendering something, I also make drawings that look suspiciously like paintings, and will be utilizing the space as a shooting space for video and audio material.

Walk us through a typical day in your studio…

When I arrive at the studio, my first point of order beyond getting caffeine is checking on what I have been rendering and deciding if I need to make alterations to what I have produced the session beforehand. I then spend the remainder of the day inventing new scenarios from which to animate material, texturing 3D models, drawing and editing already rendered material. I often move between all these different modes in a single studio day depending on my attention span or what information I have gleaned from a particular method or thing I am working on. The projects I do are vast and slow, and as such I may spend an entire day painting or modeling a single model in multiple varieties so that I have options. Every once in the while I find a point of intersection/clarity and a able to solidify my output in a series of combinations. But a great deal of the work I do is looking into the dark with a flashlight and responding directly to what I am encountering in the virtual objects or materials I am working with.

What is the first piece of art you remember grabbing your attention? At what age? Why do you think it did?

I don’t remember the specific work, but I do remember it was during a visit to Tanya Bonakdar Gallery in NY with my group of peers from the Cooper Union Pre-College Summer program, I would have been 16. It was Lisa Sigal’s first major solo exhibition in New York, and she was just starting for the first time to exit the canvas and made a large-scale wall-based work that would become the precursor to sculptural/installation oriented pieces down the road. I remember feeling that she was really doing it, and that while the work was interesting and colorful and I liked it, my primary sense was that this is what and artist is and I am this and we are one in the same in some strange way. Many years later she did a studio visit with me in graduate school at UC Davis and I was able to share that experience, and come full circle, and the time from when I first encountered her then and the time in which we re-encountered each other in my graduate experience felt like a work that was constantly in the process of becoming, and that had finally arrived at completion.

Whose studio do you find yourself wandering to in your downtime?

I’m not going to lie. I totally sneak a peak at Mark Raymer’s an Shelby Burchett’s studio because they were formerly graduate students in the program I teach in and I am incredibly proud of what they have accomplished and I am always curious what they are up to. I am mostly isolated here in a secluded studio but I peek in on Monica Dixon, who i find very interesting, Kathy Liao and Molly Garrett who are also super interesting and my neighbors and James McNamara who is both interesting and here during the day at the same time! I don’t fit in Cody Kauhl’s studio, but we do have hallway conversations and I would say the same for Zoe Chressanthis.

What events do you have coming up in the near future?

Currently, I am exhibiting in a show called Portrait at the CICA Museum in S. Korea until mid-February. I have a solo exhibition opening in Turlock, California in April, and I have a public project–the Missouri Artboards happening in September of 2017. I have been invited back to do a short residency this summer at Signal Culture in Owego, NY. I may be screening my finished, single-channel works around the world at any given time but I tend to know about those screenings later as they approach. A friend in California and I are talking about a “hair” show around both our work that could travel between here and the Bay Area, and there may be some opportunities regionally in the near future.
What are some of your plans post-residency?

While I am definitely hoping to continue onto a second year in this residency, my goals are and have always been to continue to make the work I feel is important and vital regardless of the professional outcomes. I am artist and I work everyday and I will continue to be an artist and continue to work everyday whether it is in a Charlotte Street studio, another residency, a space at the University I teach, or a studio I set-up independently. Besides this, I hope to help grow the queer coalition that we have been developing in the residency program to create visibility for queer-identifying artists in the larger region.

About jamespmcnamara

I'm a poet who lives in Kansas City, Missouri. I'm currently and always working on new idras. Anybody wanna buy some? You should. I've been told by a few folks that aren't my mom that it's pretty good.

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