“And The War Raged On” is representative of the body of work that I’ve been creating for the past several years—transforming everyday people into characters in romantic and fantastical modern mythology—working with models from all walks of life–from doctors to sex workers to other artists. Through extensive post-production, I put them into settings of epic proportion. These models are observed through an objectifying gaze which simultaneously casts them as hypermasculine while also allowing them to be vulnerable. Others in the body of work question gender identity and role-playing, and there’s even a nod to the idea of beings that might not be entirely human.
In this particular piece, I’ve used two models that I have utilized in past works to illustrate conflict in relationships through dominant and submissive positions. Placing them in an environment made up of historical imagery, This mix of elements creates an out-of-time effect in the works and makes the models godlike. The image has a somewhat indeterminate narrative quality, allowing viewers to emotionally connect to the creation and give it its final shape.
Many of my works are a microcosm of what I feel about social and political dilemmas in the world today. With the standing figures back towards the viewer, the subject restrains the figure in his grip who would otherwise be free to fly away. The dominant character is not identified but represents an emotional restraint such as fear. The other two figures are two different aspects of the same person. The individual held down is caught in the grips of the feelings, similar to being held down by our emotional bondage. And the other is trapped by his submission keeping him in place, representing the repeating of his history. Also, his position, being beneath the original incident of conflict, describes the normalizing and unconscious repeating of patterns.
Using historical imagery to help illustrate the importance of our myths, I ask how we can break these repeated cycles? Am I trapped in romanticizing these positions because I still find comfort in them? And do we do this as a society?
A few months ago, the work attracted a poet who has begun writing sonnets for each piece which now accompanies the work. Here is the corresponding writing for this particular piece.
rage on boisterous outs of war bending on and on in mortality, flesh our inquietudes and piles of sending wings into our presencing, into far
aways of nevermores and simple taste of peaceless stretch engaging our peacing of tomorrow now where three fleshes waste notime’sdescent hell just worrying
time’s broken wings of outstretched arabesques to silent almosts of the light turned pose and posing nakedness in undressed risks break our indentured here with our suppose
keep three in sudden blast of trinity and give us back a calmed eternity.
Words by Terrel Hale September 13th, 2021 4:57am
This image is the focus of an upcoming short about the making of this body of work and what’s behind it. A short by Film By Rocket Films.
Recently the work I’ve been doing received an honorable mention at the annual “Vienna Photo Awards.” This is the second year in a row that I was honored with this decoration.
In April 2021 I met Adrian and Rick who are life partners in Palm Springs where we capture these images. They were in from Boston where they live full time, visiting some friends for a few days in PS, we set up a background in the garage and proceeded to do a number of shots to capture the base imagery for what becomes these final pieces.
We worked about three hours shooting various scenarios using old paintings as inspiration that I have close on hand either on my phone or computer. Often I send these references to my models ahead of time so they will have some sort of idea what I have in mind. On occasion they send me images back that they find inspiring. This opens up a line of communication that they truly become collaborators in the process. Capturing Adriane and Rick, together and separately I created a library of imagery that I used later as a base for the work.
“The strength of a man is not exclusively determined by the size of his body but, more by the integrity of his character. The ability to reflect on his own actions and take responsibility for his life is soul building.” -Ben Fink
In recent weeks I’ve been collaborating with the writer Terrel Hale of Georgetown. The process is as followed, I create the images as well as the titles, after which I send them to Terrel and he goes into his magical macrocosm of making us see a world through words. When I asked him recently to give me a synopsis of his process below is the description I received, “A One Man 4 Act Play.” I think his description is so beautiful how he views his process. Words don’t have to be so descriptive of the image but, could allude to what’s going on giving us a possible backstory or leave it open for the viewers and readers interpretation.
Q, my models name, which is the son of one of my good friends now 20 years old, he has stepped into his own manhood. I really wanted to capture him because I think he’s so otherworldly and would be a beautiful addition to the kind of man I choose to collaborate with to create beautiful works of art.
Words by Terrel Hale, GI @terrel.hale and @screens_and_tasted_parallels
he walks in beauty threaded red and sims the turpentine, he sees our owned embrace of paled paling overdraft he dims knowing we know that look on his bright face
come fairy king and take away our owned faraways and place us on your winged ways in undressed alabaster unloaned like your gossamers spun then almost fled
to where you search in promises of now, come walk with us in solitudes of line edged on embrace and trembled to know how we can follow to your fairy kind.
undressed in arabesques of floating dread come walk us in your beauty that you shed.
August 31st, 2021 6:36pm Tuesday Georgetown
The Writers Process
Words, a one man 4 act play
A man in a business suit speaks the following:
This is a handshake. I want you to understand. I want you to understand why I decided to attempt the work in question, why I selected one form rather than another.
I did not write a story. I wrote descriptions of instinct and desire, of the secular and holy. These words are what I see the purpose of art being.
They do not behave. They don’t participate in good manners. Remember, Samuel Beckett said that “the task of the artist is to find a form to accommodate the mess.”
I’m trusting you to do the work of narrating the connections. I’m stretching your assumptions about what texts are. I’m disrupting old narratives not because I have no faith in narratives, but because I mean for you to see in my gaps and verbal impasses the opening for something new, the change from narrative into non-narrative, by experimenting with typography. These words have to be turned over and side-ways, in order that they be read both as pictures and text.
These words exist in the space of poetry creating an effect that adorns the action where the effect is more than the action. These are prose written with the intensity of poetry, a prose poem or something in between. These are an extended meditation in the same tradition of Poe’s “Eureka,” or Baudelaire’s “prose Poems,” or Bernadette Mayer’s extended studies. The sentences keep accruing. There is not epiphany here at any moment or no epiphany at all. These are intentionally disorienting and disconcerting. (Black out).
Act II The man starts taking off his suit coat and shoes and unbuttons his shirt…
I wanted to be as close to nature as possible. Working outdoors was my inspiration. It was the primary object of my study. My aim was to respond as immediately as possible to the scene before me. My words avoided conventional ways of seeing. I filled my words with a sense of open air rather than studied light.
I too, like those who went to Italy to study, was attracted by the freshness and immediacy of outdoor light and how it changes. My attempts here weas to try and capture a sensation of outdoor light by painting words on white canvases of paper. I worked in the open air but with more sketchy penmanship. I just wanted to convey the transient light and atmosphere of a particular moment, complete in itself. I also sought to be literally and pictorially as close as possible to nature, to avoid traditional methods of representation. And as a result, this direct study of nature was not merely part of the working process. It was the process.
It’s here where my own freely painted verbal sketches reside, executed ‘sur le motif,’ as Cezanne would say. They too are not perhaps finished works, maybe just studies through which I tried to train hand and eye in matching my palette with all of nature’s effects as I saw them, and in the process acquired and recorded the knowledge of a particular place and moment in time.
My own verbal sketches hope to share a sense of immediacy and a vitality with those that went to Italy. Immediacy comes from the closeness between the painter’s visual experience and the rendering of it. It’s really finding a match or equivalent for the engagement.
I have merged oil paint, drawing and watercolour and made a long [prose-poem drawing out it’s sentences like those painters who made ‘oil sketches, rapidly noted.’
Painting from nature was a private act. Poetry exists in order to communicate meaning. The radical nature of texts reflects nothing so much as the difficulty of communicating new meanings, new histories. I think I have something immediate, something authentic and something that’s not clear. Light is not always clear.
I wanted immediacy, light, words and their patterns and sounds, their reflections, shapes, and shadows. The landscape is non-linear. I think I break the law just short of breaking off communication with you.
These words are not about truth by approximation. You have to approach them in a cognitive manner because of the why I think you think. Relationships remain between varieties. They are not directly proportional as in a mathematical concept. Here there are no predictable events. (Black out).
Act III Man takes off his tie, his shirt, and his tee-shirt…
There is nothing more curious or more absurd to the non-believer than a man in search of God. To believe too little is skepticism and to believe too much is superstition. We are the victims of this chaos.
At some point don’t you think we should acknowledge the limitations, especially in our relationships with those we love? Our ability to predict, control, and understand in these same relationships are what used to be outside the realm of science, and what we now call complexity.
Deities were and are the anthropomorphizing of nature. What we now call and act of ZGod would be dealt with by having to placate the gods.
I think this mean that there is not a simple one-to-one relationship, that such a model does not explain non-linear things even though all around us are linear points of reference with man at or as the center of such universe.
Act IV the man takes off his trousers and underwear and socks and naked stand in front of the audient to finish…
These words are a translation of four years of my life, an autobiography if you will. It is the unavoidable egotistic and inevitably incomplete method of recalling my own experience.
Perhaps they should be read as one would look at an oil sketch. Perhaps you should read out loud to sense their sound and rhythm. It is a conceptually dense journey, dependent upon a visual and auditory intellect.
So, these words are an exhibition, if you will, of verbal oil sketches placed on the walls of several rooms. Walking through these rooms requires no narrative. Sometimes, I purposefully skip the logical movement the planners of exhibits arrange when I go to one because something attracts my attention elsewhere. What attracts my attention becomes the subject of scrutiny until I decide to move on.
The process of experiencing these words, is very much like that of looking at those landscape oil sketches begun or finished in the open air. The process is a journey. It’s yours as an act of perception, an act of love. (Black out).
Other Images In The Collaboration
Words by GI @terrel.hale and @screens_and_tasted_parallels
– light witnesses the evidence of calm of scurried resplendence across your pink incursions where illusions become psalm and gossamer the shadows of my ink
turned recollection burnished by the bright, the familiar and the white wrinkles strewn around reminders of your dance with night
here no remainders gather up my lines edged in around time’s decadence just as we see your prescencing, an hour binds us both in studying what art has
that peels the pull of you in front of us causing a second look, a nemesis. Words by
August 28th, 2021 2:41pm Saturday Rockville
Words by Terrel Hale, GI @terrel.hale and @screens_and_tasted_parallels
bright aureole created around light created in the owned lines of God’s grace steadied and discursively in your bright heres and unbending nows bending His face
in veiledness and kind grips of revealed love’s escaped darkness, come show our path clear come bend with us our powers once concealed transcending vulnerabilities here
in chosen presencing our nakedness transcends revealed possibilities around the evermores of one of us your bending is our passion that we see
above, below and all around your lines our edges share flesh and in sharing binds. August 30th, 2021 2:01pm esperance
More about what’s behind the words-
Language poetry is a cross between poetry, philosophy, and semiotics. It was an avant-garde movement emphasizing the role of the reader in a poem’s meaning. Instead of relying on traditional poetic techniques, language poets invite readers to analyze the text and participate in constructing meaning.
I love seeing your work! Your questions: “what is it about my artwork that brings you enjoyment,…” A couple of things: I love the “remix” aspect of mixing up old masters’ paintings with your photography. It really brings the old painting to life and I see them in a new way. I’m also a sucker for any type of artistic mash-up. I’m also desperately curious about details of your process of how you achieve the end result.
“or makes you feel a connection to it?” I know many of the folks in your work. I know Anthony and Roger from my time in LA; I know or recognize many of your other models. It’s fun to see how well you’ve leveraged their personal look in your work.
Keep up the great work…and thanks for sharing it. Take care,- Peter L
“Sometimes we have to soak ourselves in the tears and fears of the past to water our future gardens. -Suzy Kassem
“ Into The Garden” art by Ben Fink,
In my teenage years my mother asked me what was the meaning of my painting? I was looking for her impressions of it and she was looking to be given an answer. She did not want to pull from her experience and this puzzled me. If I had given it to her then the art was limited to just my vision. Without the participation of the viewer I felt the work was incomplete.
Many of us have five senses we may apply to any art form and for most of us it is by sight first that we are drawn in by an image, but it should never end there. Brush strokes of trees and vegetation may invoke a fresh breeze on a summer day, or we may recall a scent of rain. From our subconscious thoughts a song may arise from your past, a crackling fire, or a whistling wind can rise out of the pigments. Sense of touch, yes, there are rich and distinct textures that the artist depicts, so if we pull from recollection the sensation of cold stone and its coarse surface we may “feel” that part of a painting. Imagine walking barefoot on the cool earth at dusk? We hold a sense of velvet, silk, or the warmth and character of someone’s skin over the bones beneath. Does the vision of an apple bring to mind its crisp sweetness? There is a part of us we can find in any art piece by using our senses and letting ourselves accept the emotions that we find in art. Even in a still life there is radiant energy portrayed. Within the two dimensions are hidden three, or more, so there is a treasure to be found.
I believe an artist has their own system to create a work of art. It may even be a ritual as like a magician the artist gathers his “tools” and prepares the intent of the outcome. In the holy ground of their studio a paintbrush is a wand. There are cups filled with colors upon the altar that will become an elixir of light. The camera like a sword cuts the image. The model, like an initiate, lays their heart out revealing who they truly are to the master, the artist magician, who uses their insight and skills to capture a sacred moment distilling it to its earthly form. The model has surrendered and offers as a sacrifice their truth which is becomes the most intimate act one can share.
Art is an act of creation and ranks up there with one of the finest tasks someone is inspired to do because it can gives understanding and helps us so much in exploring of humanity. Any creative act is considered to be in the realm of magic, or what is holy, or of the divine, or viewed as the “medicine” amongst indigenous peoples. Art is poured out of the human spirit and gives us a way to reach beyond our human condition to ideas where words fail to capture true meaning. One can talk about the spirit of love, but a piece of art can illustrate love. Move yourself to meditate on a painting, empty your mind and let the lovingly placed brush strokes and dots of color come together in your heart.
Ben Fink shows us an empathic and sympathetic skill as he captures and makes tangible the soul of his subjects for us to smile, laugh, or cry with them, but always there is a sense of adoration about it. It is clear that he portrays his models with passionate respect and we care by how, powerfully, we are moved by his art. We feel the nurturing of trust and the open honest expressions given to the camera. We can identify with the moments of weakness, or the struggles and emotional pain that we know in our lives. Each painting will challenge you to look at yourself. This could be a wrestling with anger, or depression. This could be you when your heart was broken. This could be that friend you know that can’t express in words how they feel and fear asking for help. We know that Ben and his models have put their souls into each work, so one should, respectfully, treat each painting as a Vision Quest as the only piece missing is you.
“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.”-Edgar Degas