A Q&A With Brooklyn's Infamous Satirical Artist, Ben Evans
Ben Evans is the 23-year-old Brooklynite creating satirical life on canvas. Born in Charlotte, North Carolina, Ben struggled to find his community surrounded by “bible belt” white christians. Enrolling in Pratt Institute helped Evans make the shift to New York, where he identified his artistic aesthetic, despite criticism from his teachers. “I studied drawing, which was a subdivision under the fine arts major,” Ben explains, “All my teachers hated my work; they had a particular idea of fine art and the art world in New York. It was really discouraging.” While Pratt failed to find the beauty in his unconventional work, Ben curated a frenzy of support on Instagram.
Infamously known as @benisright, he proves to challenge art norms by exposing millennial behavior behind closed doors. His subjects can be seen smoking weed from a bong in the bathtub, eating junk food on the floor, or tied up- bondage style; to find humor in the realm of serious art. While his work is on public display via social media, it’s introspective and personal for the young artist, as it reflects his queer identity. We met up with the satirical cartoonist at his NY studio to pick his brain on topics of kink, marijuana, and sociopolitical issues.
Your art highlights the odd yet truthful nature of most millennials behind closed doors. What inspired this?
One day I found an old folder that my sister had drawn on in middle school, and it was this weird face. She isn't an artist, but I started to redraw the face, and it snowballed into this style. I started putting these cartoon people in interiors with pop art colors, and it came together gross, but cool and slightly sexual. That's how this started. My whole life I had been told that art was so serious and I wanted to do the exact opposite of that. It’s art that reflects what exists behind closed doors in a funny yet sweet way. It also revolves around my queer identity as a gay man. Growing up in the south, I had a thirst for more culture because everybody wore Abercrombie and Fitch- they were very preppy! I was deprived of culture; there were no gay people that I knew and there were no people of color around. And so the shift to New York was influential and inspiring for me.
Tattoos, junk food, drugs, and bondage are recurrent throughout your work. Do these subjects mirror your own habits? Explain the importance of including this in your work.
Well, of course! I did a show in February called ‘Kink,’ and it centered around the latex masks and fetish gear found in a lot of my art and it’s symbolism for safe spaces. I started thinking about how safe and wholesome deviant sexual things can be because there is so much trust involved. The idea of latex masks, a safe word, and all of that rhetoric is a symbol of how we can be in a safe space. I don't even mean to use the latex mask as a symbol for sexuality but more as a symbol of truth and honesty with yourself. I see the physical act of using bondage as being safe in your own body.
Tell us more about ‘KINK,’ at the Guy Hepner gallery.
It was cool. It was my first exhibit, and I was still in school when it happened. I met my friends, Max and Tanner, who were working with Guy Hepner and that’s how it started. I made the whole show based around fetish gear and safe spaces, and it was cool to be able to put the work in such a public space. Even though my work is displayed publicly on Instagram, it’s very private and personal for me. I thought it was such a beautiful experience.
What would you name your current aesthetic?
The antithesis of life study paintings.
Favorite fast food?
Favorite strand of weed?
Solitude or companionship?
Instagram or Tumblr?
Pain or pleasure?
On occasion, you address political and social issues in your work, whether that’s feminist glory, gender fluidity, or anti-nazi representation. What do you hope to achieve with this subtle commentary?
I have a small platform, but everybody should use their voice for the betterment of humanity. Some young kids probably follow me, and I think it's important to be vocal with them about current issues. Especially with this crazy administration, a lot of my friends and I feel unsafe around those who feel emboldened by our current president. I hope to be a voice for change.
You’re a big advocate of marijuana; what’s your standpoint on the legalization process the U.S.?
I wish it were legal everywhere. I'm upset Cynthia Nixon wasn't elected because she would’ve made it legal here [New York]. For me, it’s pretty easy to get away with; it's basically been legal for white people to smoke weed for ages. What’s upsetting is that people of color get arrested for it on an everyday basis. Dispensaries are cool and whatever, but the biggest reason for legalization should be to free those incarcerate with petty weed charges. Also, the fact that cigarettes are legal and marijuana is not... it makes no sense- and I smoke cigarettes!
What can we expect from you in the near future?
I just had an exhibit in Paris. It was a group show, but I had a lot of pieces there. It was summer themed, so it was less serious, but the work was still very personal. I'll be showing at Art Basel this year, which will be cool, and I've been talking to some galleries in LA, so hopefully more exhibitions to come.