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Benson Chen
Thinly, 2023
Acrylic On Canvas

This acrylic painting is of a dead person, in some sort of afterlife or purgatory. He is spread thin and all over, only united by the deep red that snakes and coils like subway lines. The person’s black eyes are staring into a mirror with nothing looking back. Their body is stretched by time and the uncertainty of the afterlife. However, their face is pretty intact and unchanged, save for the chunk of head missing in the back. That represents the slow but sure deterioration that death, even in the afterlife, is bringing him.

This artwork was inspired by media that I thought had very interesting takes on the topic of death. At one point in the A24 film Talk to Me, they describe death as terrifying and mysterious as waking up and staring into the mirror one day and not finding a reflection looking back. You would be doomed to wander the folds of time, confused and disoriented with only the faint idea of who you were to bring solace. The coloring is inspired by the movie cover The Night House and The Weeknd’s Starboy and is meant to make the figure pop on the canvas. The fingers that stretch and cover the canvas are inspired by Salvador Dalí’s painting The Elephants. I was inspired by the way his surrealism made me feel as if I was staring right into his dreams. The Elephants in the painting can be recognized as elephants, but are distorted enough to come across as eerie, which is something that influenced how the person looked in the painting.

This was my first endeavor in acrylic painting, and I think that for a long time, I overestimated how much I could do with acrylic with that little experience. This led to a lot of trial and error, which left me fatigued. Finally, I learned to let go of the expectations I had for myself in my head. Whenever I would feel let down by the hours I had spent on an aspect of the painting that I just couldn’t get right, I would do whatever I felt to the painting, which actually led to the creation of this concept. Receiving the grant to create this piece of artwork helped me as a student and as an artist because it made me create under a broad but specific/chosen guideline, something that will prepare me for future art classes.

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