Mark Benton exhibits paintings at WalkOver Gallery

Local artist Mark Benton poses the question: “Rural Industry: An Embellishment or Blemish on the Landscape?” In a series of eight oil paintings, all of which are untitled but many of which are recognizable locations, the artist takes his inquiry to the rural industrial landscape.
“I began this series by simply being caught in the moment,” he said, “prevalently a melancholy moment of catching the light at just the right angle reflected off a lonely piece of utilitarian metal.”
Benton’s use of light and color, sometimes playful but more often somber, reveals remnants of our past, or vestiges of the present time barely hanging on. When did these very particular structures slip into the past? It was not that long ago when, many can remember, these structures, mechanical equipment and places were fully active and utilized. The forms and shapes of “the architecture of utilitarianism” posed challenges in the translation, said the artist, but “the indifference to style or appearance in architecture also lends itself to my personal appeal of the imagery.”
Once alerted to the existence of these forms, one begins to take a second look at the very peculiar and specific man-made structures that can be seen on any short-distance drive through our rural landscape. One might discover a sense of ingenuity, purpose and self-importance in these forms and yet, also, now, they inhabit a bleak and abandoned presence. What were the human dreams behind their creation?
The viewer is free to decide whether there is an aesthetic here. Two vents on a rooftop suggest a futuristic time with robot-like forms reflecting a golden sheen on metal and playful plumes of clouds dancing above. In one glorious piece a luminous sky filters through dizzyingly high pipes connected at a variety of angles.
See the exhibit at the WalkOver Gallery, 15 Main Street in Bristol. It will be on view through January 2018. The gallery is open Monday-Friday 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. and on weekends and evenings by appointment. Call (802) 453-3188 x 2 or email [email protected] for more information.

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