|12/11/2018 11:57:00 AM|
Sisters artist launches Kickstarter campaign
By Helen SchmidlingOn the morning of his 69th birthday last week, Paul Alan Bennett woke up and opened a Kickstarter campaign to finance publication of "Night Skies," a book that is his legacy. Night Skies includes 48 of Bennett's night sky paintings, accompanied by poetic text.
"During a childhood camping trip, I held a flashlight up to the night sky. A fellow camper told me the light from my flashlight goes on forever, as long as it doesn't hit anything. It will just go on in space. So that light from my childhood could still be going on now," Bennett said.
The night sky continued to fascinate Bennett. As a young man, he lived in Greece and studied its ancient history, created art, and taught art history. Through it all, his thoughts evolved around the wondrous legendary characters of Greek mythology. Who were they, and how are they portrayed?
"Take Hercules ... he had 12 labors to make amends for killing his wife and kids. Or Jason and the Argonauts. One of the people who helped Jason was a sorcerer, Medea, and they became lovers. At one point, she killed her brother, so Jason left her, married and had kids. Medea became jealous and killed Jason's wife and children. So she is seen as the personification of evil, but Hercules did the same thing, yet we think of Hercules as a hero. Isn't it interesting how men and women - who commit a similar crime - are perceived differently by society?"
Thirty years ago, Bennett's childhood camping memory flashed back to him, when he was teaching art in schools from Joseph all the way to Jordan Valley in Eastern Oregon.
"That involved a lot of driving, alone, looking up at the night sky," Bennett recalled.
So he made his first night-sky painting, "The Road to Joseph," showing a tiny blue car on a red mountain road, headlights piercing the ink-black sky, surrounded by five bright stars. Light going on forever.
Over the years, Bennett continued to paint from his memories and imagination - often but not always returning to those night skies.
"When I left Greece, I felt I was leaving that world behind," Bennett said. "Then I realized that all that Greek stuff is right above me. We share the same skies."
After he retired from teaching, Bennett began a focused study that yielded a series of paintings depicting constellations that the ancients named for their mythical heroes and villains: Hercules, the Pleiades, Capricorn, Gemini, Taurus, Pegasus, and many more - 24 in all.
After launching the Night Skies Kickstarter on his birthday, Bennett hung eight of his new constellation paintings in the Sisters Library computer room, where they will remain throughout December. More original paintings and prints can be seen at Sisters Gallery & Frame Shop, The Tumalo Art Company in Bend's Old Mill District, and online at www.paulalanbennett.com.
Bennett's Kickstarter (at kickstarter.com and search Night Skies Book) has a lofty goal of $15,000, but offers generous rewards to donors, in the form of note cards, books, giclee prints, and even original paintings. The book itself will be available in April 2019, but the Kickstarter campaign closes January 12.
Bennett is a longtime resident of Sisters. He has an MA from the University of LaVerne in Athens, Greece, and a BFA from the Maryland Institute of Art. He's had numerous one-person shows, developed a series of tapestries for Pendleton Woolen Mills, and made many paintings for posters, cards, and book illustrations. He's known throughout Oregon and beyond as an artist in the schools, and taught for many years at Central Oregon Community College in Bend.
In addition to being famous for his night skies, Bennett is known as the "knit" painter, for a personal style that began with a pair of woolen gloves purchased at the Great Bazaar in Istanbul.
"I was fascinated with their folk patterns and colors," he recalled. "Doing a painting of such a subject intrigued me. Could I re-create this look in watercolor?"
Using gouache paint gave Bennett the control he needed to make the yarns look real.
"I liked the look, and quickly realized that all cultures have some form of knitting and weaving."
This led to knitted patterns in hills, mountains, bodies of water, animals, and even knitted sweaters, that tapped into Bennett's interest in travel and history, overlapping with the world of fabric design. Bennett has a clothing line available at artofwhere.com/artists/paulalanbennett.
Bennett continues to be involved in the art world of Sisters, as a member of the roundabout art committee, and the art committee of Friends of Sisters Library, and he plays ukulele with the Bend Ukulele Group. You can see him perform as a member of Triage Improv at Cascades Theatrical Company in Bend. He is active with the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Central Oregon. He and his spouse, artist Carolyn Platt, recently visited their son, Parker, in Europe. No doubt, this will be reflected in upcoming paintings, as Bennett shows no sign of slowing down as he heads toward the younger side of 70.
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