"I am a proud practicing Jew ( I love the term practicing because life is one long rehearsal), so the image of Shabbat Candles is strongly ingrained in my pysche, both in terms of physical candles, burning on a Friday night, as well as in their deeper meaning of an eternal light in the darkness.
Old Jewish teaching: The darker the room, the brighter the candles glow. That being said, I have pictured Shabbat Candles in many styles over the years and I am most fond of these because they are imbued with the stained glass beauty that glow in many synagogues around the world. This includes the synagague down the road from my home that I went to as a youth and at the same place I continue to attend services."
- Benny Blindspots
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“I believe that our struggles and our challenges are the greatest determinate in our creative expressions. Meaning, the more one suffers, the more powerful their art can be.”
Benny is a determined, passionate artist whose talent was discovered after his vision was lost. Growing up, Benny enjoyed doodling and watching his mother create mixed medium fiber arts. “But it was only after the loss of vision that I found the bravery to try to paint,” he explains.
At the age of 25, he was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune condition called NeuroMyelitis Optica (NMO). This demyelinating disorder affects the optic nerve, brainstem and spinal cord. Benny describes, “I was left with large blind spots in the center of my visual field as well as chronic (often debilitating) nerve pain throughout the body.”
Entering a new and drastically different reality, Benny struggled to make sense of his change in abilities. He shares, “I was in a bad place emotionally after being diagnosed with NMO and used alcohol as a crutch for quite some time.” Through hard work, he was able to become sober. 3 months into his sobriety, a pivotal conversation with a friend changed the trajectory of his life. Benny says, “A friend of mine asked how I was doing. I told him that I was bored. His response has never left my mind. He said, "If you are bored... create! create! Create!"
At this point, Benny was 5 years post diagnosis and unsure where to turn, so he listened to his friend. He explains, “After initial skepticism, I dove all in and found that I had become fearless in my expression and that creating visual art allowed me to find pleasure in the vision I have left.” Suddenly, a new world of possibilities opened up for Benny. “Since then, art has been the outlet and the expression I need to transcend life with chronic pain and illness”, he expresses.
Benny’s paintings are raw, striking, and engaging to the viewer. He puts forth an abstract and expressionist style while playing with surrealism. Benny refers to some of his paintings as “dreamscapes”, as they come from intuitive movements as opposed to a preconceived vision of what the painting should be. He describes this as a process of letting go, where he lets his emotions lead the beginning of the painting and until he sees a larger and more holistic image pleading to come out. From that point, he works to allow that image to emerge.
“I see in my paintings a certain hunger for life and a recognition of its pain and turmoil. There is a juxtaposition of chaos and order in many of the paintings and often a foreboding and yet, I hope, the image remains a thing of beauty. I have learned that to live is to suffer and that we live to create... making creative action, the antidote to our suffering.”
Benny is inspired by the desire to express himself. He shares, “Fear inspires my painting. Loneliness inspires my painting. The desire to be understood inspires my painting.” Living with chronic illness, pain is a physical part of his daily life, however Benny’s perspective has changed through his process of creation. “I was initially reminded of this loss every waking moment as I struggled to view the world through large blind spots,” he explains, “After getting more seriously into the painting, this allowed me to look at the world and find inspiration instead of sadness and anger.”
Additionally, Benny is inspired by his religion and the desire to provide for his family. As an orthodox Jewish man, he is fascinated with imagery from biblical tales and stained glass windows in synagogues. Benny is passionate about supporting his religious community and advocating against antisemitism. He is also a stay at home dad, raising his son Elijah Leib. Between doctor’s appointments and painting, he enjoys taking Elijah to the museum. Benny shares, “He is certainly my finest creation and has already told me that I do "crazy art". He has his own gallery of his own works in his room.” Benny dreams of a successful career in art that allows him to provide, inspire, and lead.
ArtLifting champions artists impacted by homelessness or disabilities through the celebration and sale of their artwork. Learn more here.