As a collector of materials and stories from our human, natural and cultural landscape, artist Benny Ferdman reinterprets images and tales to reclaim wonder in everyday life. His journey has led him through broad explorations of diverse cultures, to a more intimate engagement with East European Jewish traditions, history and the Yiddish language he grew up with. His paintings, sculptures and installations are animated by a mix of folkloric and natural forms, ancient text, the past, the present, renewal and contradiction. He is co-founder and Artistic Director of Creative Ways, an organization that creates public art, exhibitions, multi-media installations, interdisciplinary arts programming and educational curricula nationally and across the globe. He is also Co-Founder/Director of Camp Wildcraft--an art and nature summer camp in Los Angeles whose mission is to "grow curious, creative, confident and caring kids who feel at home in nature."
Benny about his work:
A trickster ring of rabbits are spun ‘round by a circling leviathan, while an elephant lumbers under the weight of an entire kingdom on its back. Deers run without obstruction straight toward God, as the memory of a vulnerable people is wrapped up in a knight’s formidable armor. This enduring visual lexicon accompanies me into the hills and fields and canyons that have become my studio over the past years, forming a symbolic library that I transform and am transformed by. I gather and interpret these images from the pages of old manuscripts, from rare archival photographs of now destroyed wooden synagogues, where hares and unicorns adorn the painted ceilings, and from tombstones I sketched in ruined graveyards while traveling through Ukraine. Focusing on the nexus between nature and culture, this journey has led me through broad explorations of cultural experience. As a collector of materials found in nature, my artwork and ongoing research juxtaposes and reinterprets these objects to reclaim wonder in every day life. My process is both a reflection and reconciliation. Often, we cannot go forward without looking backward.