Since I left my job as a bank SVP in 2002, I have been creating art nonstop! Inspired at first by boxes of old family photos and documents, I began making collages, assemblages and altered books with these very personal materials. I soon found myself collecting old dolls, doll heads, doll limbs, tiny ceramic figures, and vintage children's play furniture, buttons, jewelry, fabric, all of which frequently end up in my work. Another inspiration for me has been the colors and folk art of Mexico and Guatemala, where I make an annual "pilgrimage" with a group that calls itself "the muchachas." We visit woodcarvers, weavers, ceramic sculptors, mask makers and other artisans in their homes and studios, and my collections have expanded to include ethnic textiles, little books in Spanish, rusted cans and other Latin American detritus!
For a number of years I have been a member of Philadelphia's Dumpster Divers, a group of artists which focuses on re-using cast -off pieces of the world around us to make found object art. To me and to many "divers," art materials are everywhere, and sometimes just finding a particular item inspires a variety of projects. I look at a bottlecap on the street and see a doll's little hat; my old paintbrushes look like legs. Cigar boxes and old drawers are really "houses" for creating a story within. My work brings together many elements of my life as an artist: figures are made from reused materials such as plastic bags, recycled paper, old doll clothes, toys and found objects; my colorful palette, the use of masks and the paper maiche process are inspired by the exuberance of Mexico and its crafts people. My assemblages are frequently family records and memory pieces which incorporate the wall paper pattern of my chilhood home, postcards from the beach town where we spent the summer, my father's passport and ration books from World War II. Currently I have a long-term goal of creating 1000 figures! I've made about 260 in the past year and a half and a few are displayed here,
Ellen Benson February 2008