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Now is All That Matters: Maura Bendett

Photo+by+Michael+Perez
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Now is All That Matters: Maura Bendett

Photo by Michael Perez

Photo by Michael Perez

Photo by Michael Perez

Photo by Michael Perez

The concept of time is a tricky one. On the one concrete and practical hand we have dedicated our lives to the concept of timeliness and finding ways of marking the passing of time, on the other abstract and theoretical hand we have come to the understanding that time is a social construct that we cling to because it’s the only way we know how to make sense of the passing of time.

But it’s so easy to get caught up on the concept of time. In some ways, it’s unhealthy. How many hours haven’t we wasted thinking of all the ways we could have done something better? How many sleepless nights haven’t we trudged through imagining all the “what if’s” of the upcoming day?

We are so hung up on what has been and what could be that we lose sight of what is. This is exactly the reason why Maura Bendett paints and creates her kaleidoscopes of eclectic art.

 

 

Photo by Michael Perez

Photo by Michael Perez

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“It’s how I stay present,” she explained as I looked at her art pieces. Some were works in progress, some were old pieces that she had laying around, “if I’m in here creating then I’m thinking of the now.”

 

 

Bendett is an LA-based artist and art professor at both Otis and Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. I was fortunate enough to be invited to her studio in Los Angeles where we spoke about her art both old and new, her process, and her inspirations.

“Mainly I do [my wall pieces] in literal pieces, you know? I’ll make a cluster of these at a time and then the ones that I feel go together then I attach,” Bendett explained, “and what I don’t like I end up breaking up and reusing in other pieces or I end up dumping.”

Her art is inspired by flowers, Martians, insects, and seed pods. As a child, she spent a lot of time in nature and was constantly inspired by the natural world.

“It’s really in all my art, in some way or another. The flowers are in everything. Sometimes they look exactly like flowers, other times I make them in their most simplistic nature. I obviously don’t have literal Martians in all my works, but there is a certain alien feel to it. Martians were usually portrayed as having antennas and I think that’s what got me interested because insects also had antennas. But I don’t really think of whether or not Martians are real, but the base of this is the origin of life and whether or not we even originated on Earth. We have no real way of knowing that.”

 

Photo by Michael Perez

And she really does have elements of these four things in her pieces. The more recent ones, the wall mounted ones, look like they could be Martian space gardens, with flowers that look like eyeballs blooming from branches that and roots tangled with glass seed pods. It’s both intricate and simple all at once. At times you can see the individual clusters if you focus hard enough, but mostly it’s a tangled, colorful alien jungle.

In many ways, Bendett’s art is not the typical gallery art. Aside from the abstract color explosion of alien flowers, Bendett has gone against the grain since the beginning of her career by simply inserting flowers in her art at all.

“I wanted to do something subversive because women were expected to be more masculine. Art in the late 80s was very minimalistic and straight lines. It would have been cool for a macho guy to do flowers, but not for a woman. But I enjoyed making wiry flowers, so that’s what I did,” said Bendett, “I guess in artwork I fought the seriousness, I wanted to be silly. I took my art seriously, but I didn’t take it seriously as a whole.

 

I would indulge in my art, but for years at a time, I questioned why I was an artist. In the end, I did it because I loved it. Of course, flowers are no longer taboo, and that’s fine.”

 

Photo by Michael Perez

 

And the love for her art is evident in her passion and dedication. She uses non-traditional and traditional mediums. Acrylic paint makes an appearance, but so does glass glitter and plastic stems of artificial flowers.

“Michaels gives me a lot of materials, a lot of vines,” Bendett said with a wry smile before accidentally cutting her finger on some of the glass glitters, “it really is sharp, but I love the way light reflects off of it.”

This passion definitely bleeds into her teaching where she constantly pushes her students to try anything that they find curiosity in, regardless of possible mistakes. She encourages her students in ways that she didn’t always feel encouraged.

 

 

“I would second-guess myself as a student because a professor hurt my feelings by telling me that Martians were stupid. So, I put them down for a long time but then I finished school and I revisited them and embraced them.”

It’s hard to think of what her art would be like without that alien element. There are some pieces, in her early work, that don’t even have flowers. Bendett’s need for complex and texturized work is obvious, nothing she creates is ever really flat anymore. If it’s not sticking out of the wall, it’s free-standing, but it’s all three dimensional.

“I can’t not create. I like making pieces that just exist, a flow of consciousness,” said Bendett, “it’s all in the now. The past and the present don’t exist. Now is all that matters.”

Email Diana Juarez at diana.juarez8805@my.riohondo.edu.

 

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Now is All That Matters: Maura Bendett