Ben Moon is one of the nicest people I know. Seriously. It's almost as if he's too down to earth to have the resume he's acquired over his decades long tenure as a musician and multimedia artist... and yet he's been featured in galleries and events all over the East Coast, he's become a regular at Art Basel Miami, and his paintings are coveted by collectors around the world. It's the thoughtful process behind each piece and the varied talents that Ben possesses that illuminate the larger picture of Ben's art style. This all adds up to a series that includes a nod to metaphysics, religion, politics and the afterlife in a way that displays both his sharp wit and his deeply curious nature. I'm lucky enough to have spent some time with Ben Moon, and when he starts talking about art his brain can take some very interesting turns! We've asked Ben a few questions about his life and his art... I know you will enjoy this conversation with our September Featured Artist Ben Moon!
Tell us about yourself Ben-- Who are you?
I feel like I'm figuring that out every day, and my art is like the record of that process.
When did you change your name from Ben Rosenfeld to Ben Moon?
I chose the name Moon after a near death experience following a serious automobile accident during the summer of my sophomore year of college. The details of this experience are enough to fill an entire interview in its own right, but it was something which profoundly changed me and fueled my artistic journey ever since. During this experience I was guided by several entities who described themselves as ancestors. At the end of this experience, they gave me a name in a language I did not understand and wouldn't dare to try and pronounce. When I asked them what it meant, they said it translated most closely to "he who has walked on the moon". From then on, I began using that name as an artist... slightly shortened of course.
Where are you hiding out now that the Quarantine has changed things so drastically? How are you holding up?
It's been a fascinating and, at times, challenging experience. It's like we all live in our own little "quarantine pods" and are prohibited from making direct contact with anyone outside our pod unless it's mediated by our phones. I'm really lucky to live in a situation where I have a studio to work in. My fiancée and I meditate daily and go for walks to try to re-balance in nature as often as possible. I always find that helpful. But honestly, it is very challenging at times. Humans are social creatures. When we are deprived of collective community activities such as live music, shows, sports, worship etc., over time it can become psychologically debilitating. So many people are really suffering right now. I think it will be a while before we'll be able to fully appreciate the ramifications of this "new normal".
I've been watching along on your IG as the Quarantine Drawings were created, and I feel like it's almost a timeline of the tension in the universe over this past 5 months. Has it been a planned journey?
That's exactly what it is; my version of a diary. I've been doing a lot of portrait commissions over the last few months so that's been occupying most of my time in the studio during the day. At night I like to unwind with these little drawings as a way of channeling the energy of the moment, filtered through my unique sensibility. Audrey can only take so much, so it's been a great outlet for expressing my "extra" thoughts and feelings.
Is your art about creating a dialogue or making a statement?
Recently I've become fascinated by the original Greek meaning of the "apocalypse", which is not necessarily synonymous with the End Time, but instead translates into the 'UNVEILING". Through the miracle of the internet, the parameters of the collective consciousness have radically expanded, leaving many of the things which have been there all along but were formerly concealed from view suddenly exposed. It's way too much to take in all at once, so we must each see what we are ready to at our own pace... but it's all out there now. My work contains snapshots from my journey of awakening. The only limits are those we impose upon ourselves.
Does the meaning of a painting change for you as it goes out in the world and has interactions of it's own?
The meanings are always changing for sure. Even if I think I know what I'm trying to express, that's really just the jumping off point. Over the course of a project, it feels as though the work tells me what it wants to become, just as much as the other way around. When I look back at something after it is completed, I often realize it was about something totally different than I originally suspected.
I love the cartoonish elements that you throw into pieces sometimes and have admired the way they seem to- in a lighthearted way- highlight an almost heavy absurdity in our culture. It's an absurdity that makes me angry, personally, but I don't sense that anger in your work. Is it there, though?
For me it's this incredible paradox that best characterizes the current American experience. The juxtaposition of the ruthlessness of our social policy, gleefully administered by absurd cartoon characters. It's the shiny toy in the genetically modified, cancer causing "happy meal". Therein lies the miraculous contradiction that is America.
Tell us about your style-- When did you start drawing the grid-like squares? Do you have intention in those, or do you just let your pen move?
It all started when I was doodling during class in grade school. I used to take whatever thought popped into my mind and try to convey it visually in the most efficient possible way. Whenever I noticed another thought, I would do the same thing, eventually creating a visual record of my stream of consciousness over that period of time. Altogether they represent the matrix or unified field of information with which we each interact to create our reality experience.
What inspires your work? How do you stay motivated?
My search for truth and meaning have always motivated my work. But now I feel like everything is changing in the world, as well as for me personally. My family is now my greatest motivation. It's beautiful and scary to love something so much, while at the same time having so little control over the chaos of the world around us. Nevertheless, I’m grateful to be here in this moment, and I know that all is as it's meant to be.
Do you have a favorite book or author? Album or musician?
I've always loved the writing of Charles Bukowski and Hunter S. Thompson. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins. Desolation Angels by Jack Kerouac. Love Supreme by John Coltrane. Joy Division, Velvet Underground. Jimmy Hendrix. Bjork. Surfer Rosa by the Pixies is a masterpiece. Graceland by Paul Simon. Nick Drake. Radiohead. Talking Heads. The Cure. Did you want one favorite?
If you could eat out at one restaurant right now, literally anywhere-- where would you go?
Oh wow, that's a tough one. The ratio of time I spend each day fantasizing about eating different food but never actually eating it is staggering. But this was true even before this whole pandemic started. It's definitely an issue. I would probably roll down to Jackson Diner in Queens, NY for the best Indian lunch buffet ever for like six dollars. But like I said, this is basically all I think about so if you asked me this question again in five minutes I'd probably go for sushi, or Mexican. I just want to eat it all ha-ha.
What's next for Ben Moon?
I would hope insomuch as it's possible, to make my life a work of art and art my work for life.