We are living through hard times. I suppose that is where art often begins. In my painting I want to express something positive, artistically serious, but perhaps a little whimsical? Sharing that with others is a privilege I aspire to in the hope that people will see a little part of the ordinary world differently. For me, it all starts with color.
I spent 30 years as a graphic designer, much of it running my own shop in New York. Like so many creatives before us, my wife and I first settled in Brooklyn, but then moved to the suburbs of New Jersey, where we raised our daughter. It was around her sophomore year in college that I started life drawing classes at the Art Students League of New York. Even though I have been creative all my career, the painting opened up a whole new side of me, encouraged by a wonderful drawing teacher at the League.
As the economy changed, so too did the graphic design business. I closed my New York office to save money on rent, but quickly learned that when working from home you have a lot time on your hands. Though my wife and dog were wonderful company, I needed to get out of the house and interact with humanity. Thirty years in the city will do that to you. So, to the surprise of nearly everyone, I took a part-time job selling HVAC (heating and air conditioning products} at the local Home Depot.
It was in these stores that inspiration struck. As I walked around the cavernous Home Depot warehouse, I became fascinated by the many different product displays. There were labeled bins, barrels of gloves, brushes and wooden dowels, rolls of painter’s tape, sacks of fertilizer – all bursting, to my mind’s eye, with creative possibility. I saw colors, shapes, patterns, textures and lighting – the whole myriad coming together to create what I called a “paintable moment”.
I started photographing the products with my iPhone and then used the images as a tool to re-create these everyday retail objects as bold expressions of color and composition. The works are mostly acrylic on canvas, but I have recently begun investigating gesso treated board, paper and pastels. My intent is not to portray an exact interpretation, but rather, to create a sense of delight in having the viewer see the objects and the abstraction.
Inspiration at the Home Depot was not so much a surprise as a confirmation. I believe artists draw on life experience to inform their work. While selling HVAC at a Home Depot is not my calling, it presented me with an opportunity to explore everyday objects in a new light. Somehow this seems like a really good idea.
Bennett Gewirtz is the owner and designer of ggraph design and High Top Designs. His painting “Pads 2-Pack” can be seen at a juried show, Freedom of Abstraction, May 3 through June 1 at Site: Brooklyn Gallery. You can also see his work at Bennett Gewirtz.com, or follow him on Instagram @bennettgewirtz_art.