Artifacts of Family and Roots
By Erin Goodwin-Guerrero

Ben Hunt’s MFA exhibition, The Grey Area, at San Jose State, is a knockout on the visual level. Indeed the entire space is dominated by the grey walls and an uncertainty between past and present. It is, conceptually, an enigma and an unsettled search for personal history.

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Ghost House by Ben Hunt

Hunt alludes to ghosts in earlier work, and the furniture he constructs to support his curious “trophies and memorabilia” are indeed ghostly. Somewhere in history an end table, a credenza and a fireplace mantle were of warm wood, but are now, cool, white and transparent. Originally, they were of a natural material. Now they are copies made of plastic.

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Occasional Table: Hunt recyles scraps of clear plexiglas, sands and sandblasts it, to create his translucent building material.

Nothing in this installation is in its original form or material. Family photos, blurred under the haze of the plastic overlay, are arranged on the end table and credenza. Their frames are of the same translucent white plastic. They are not the original photographs, but have been recovered from an internet search. The family in the photos cannot be distinguished individually. They become one with a long family tree that goes back to Ireland and maybe everywhere else in the world.

A collection of natural deer antlers, found in the forest, are cast in aluminum that renders them bright, hard, inanimate. They sit on the elegant mantle, a reminder of now politically incorrect animal trophies on the wall in a hunting lodge. Does this suggest the artist’s subliminal recollections of a primal existence?

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Mantle, by Ben Hunt, made of acrylic and cast aluminum.

Everything that was once alive, is now somehow distorted and cloaked in an artificial layer of new material that attempts to make its memory perfect or reframe it. Someplace at the core, these artifacts represent life, and were once close to an imperfect nature, vital and in flux. But they have become frozen in an idealized and indestructable illusion of what once was.

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Ben Hunt’s curous hybrid Goddess of Southern Comfort seems part Hindu and part early Americana.

A strange series of goddesses also appears in this scenario – one on a trophy niche against the wall, with two more peeking out from the open doors of the credenza. They are bronze with a silvery patina. Their forms are that of colonial porcelain dolls but, with multiple skirts, and multiple heads and arms. They manage to combine an artifact of American history and a Hindu goddess. All their silvery arms seem to reach out across the gallery to the nest of silver antlers on the mantle. An undercurrent of female and male ancestors is present, perhaps nurturing and sensuous or practical and predatory .

Contact: <benhunt404@hotmail.com>, SJSU Galleries <tbelcher@email.sjsu.edu>

 

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