Art professor expresses faith through exhibit

Assistant professor of art Aaron Benson’s exhibit, “Veiled: A Space Between,” is displayed at the Tennessee Valley Museum of Art. The collection draws inspiration from Benson’s Christian faith.

Some artists get the chance to contribute a few of their pieces to a massive exhibit. However, for assistant professor of art Aaron Benson, the challenge was much greater.

Beginning Jan. 21, the Tennessee Valley Museum of Art has been displaying Benson’s exhibit, titled “Veiled: A Space Between,” and will host it through Mar. 9.

Benson, who has featured his work throughout the U.S., filled two conjoined spaces with around 20 pieces.

The work features a variety of materials, including clay, glass beads, graphite, wood and 24-carat gold leaf.

Admission is $3 for students, $5 for adults and free on Sundays.

“I think most viewers (will) find his work relatable and be able to connect with it,” said senior Marissa Childers. “I encourage other students to go see his work.”

Benson said he has participated in around 60 exhibits since his senior year of high school. He said besides being a nice challenge for him, the solo work also helps get his art out of the studio.

“When (I’m) in the studio, it’s almost like (I) have blinders on,” he said. “(I am) looking at the work very close, and (I’m) working with it right in front of (me). When (I) get to spread the work out and let it speak by itself, it’s such a great opportunity.”

Benson said the exhibit draws inspiration from his Christian faith and centers on the difficulty of faith in a deity who cannot be seen or completely understood. Every work features a literal or figurative veil used to hide an object.

“It’s not about anybody else’s faith, belief system or spirituality,” Benson said. “It’s about mine. This is me working through my own belief system.”

He said when people ask him what he gains from the work, he answers it is about never knowing all the answers of his faith but being content with this. However, he said he does not want this exhibit to feel like he is forcing his beliefs on others.

“I want people to not worry that this work is propaganda or wanting to change them,” Benson said. “I want this work to do exactly what I believe art can do, (which is) to move them.”

Benson said the pieces are not close together because he wants each work to be an individual experience for attendees.

He also encourages attendees to view a piece before reading its material list, followed by the title and artist statement, to gain opinions on its meanings, and then ask him questions afterward.

Benson is currently planning a workshop for clay technique demonstrations to hold at the museum. However, he has not set a date yet.