Studio Diaries / Bennet Schlesinger
The Los Angeles-based sculptor muses on the benefits of isolated practice .
CREATING BESPOKE VESSELS, luminaires and illuminated sculptures, Bennet Schlesinger has fostered an intuitive process all his own. The Los Angeles-based artist’s combination of bamboo, paper, archival glue, clay and brass could be described as a refined form of paper-mache with nods to the Japanese Akari tradition.
This sensuous approach is made most apparent in his lamps. After the initial shade structures are constructed using bamboo, layers of sheeted material are applied and glued together to achieve a stable tension. The lamps emanate light and warmth in unexpected ways because this flimsy material has been rendered rigid. These bulbous forms – revealing their underlying structure through illumination – tether to sturdy, roughly-shaped ceramic bases. These forms are garnished with organic flourishes, patinas and quick applications of colour. When combined, these elements give the impression of something carved out of stone.
Having exhibited at Violet’s Cafe and SIGNAL in Brooklyn, Karma in Amagansett, AND NOW in Dallas and Big Medium in Austin, the newcomer’s pieces have quickly become sought-after by leading interior designers. A recent exhibition at Los Angeles’ platform Stanley’s displayed a group of works created during quarantine. The Design Edit’s correspondent Adrian Madlener spoke to Schlesinger about his approach and this new body of work.
The Design Edit (TDE): How have you adjusted your life and practice during this pandemic?
Bennet Schlesinger (BS): I was fortunate enough that it didn’t affect my work in any substantially negative ways. I was already working alone in my home as of November 2019, and so when things really shut down, my creative hermitage had already begun. There were some minor setbacks with companies shipping materials, but this wasn’t too much of an inconvenience. Logistical difficulties usually get resolved faster than clay dries. I like how present people have become and how everyone has been able to slow down a bit.
TDE: How do you keep yourself creative and optimistic in these times? What’s your daily routine?
BS: I listen to the Ram Dass podcast Here And Now in the studio every day, which helps keep my priorities and mindset in check. If I get to work with clay, it’s a great day! The papering is more psychologically demanding, but I appreciate everything it has taught. I love ceramics and clay craft. It’s given me such a clear path to walk in the world, and I am grateful to have found it.
TDE: Describe your approach to working with clay and creating a synthesis between different elements. Where do you draw inspiration from?
BS: My material approach and aesthetic pursuit is purely inspired by nature and these specific naturally-derived materials tend to hold the weight of that pursuit. I primarily work from feel. I have a specific feeling on a given day and work to translate it into form and then continue as long as possible with that source of motivation. The trouble comes in trying to keep changing the process during the day, but this mode of work holds endless possibilities and inspiration. I’m particularly inspired by artists like Cy Twombly, Suzan Frecon and Peter Voulkos, who operated from such an unapologetic position within themselves. They embodied this interior force.
TDE: How do you channel your sculptural practice into applications like lighting?
BS: I have been able to find a flow in lighting that feels especially good. I love how these works don’t involve themselves in language. No one has ever asked me what the light means or represents, and I feel that there’s a lot of power in creating outside of metaphor.