Although many artists seem to languish or burn out at mid-career, Michelle Benoit is thriving. She has found a way to survive by working constantly, experimenting consistently and along the way she has gotten some very good advice, support and mentorship. Benoit is truly an inspiration to artists at any stage of their careers.
Since graduating with her MFA and MA from the University of Iowa in 1999/2000, Benoit has had a successful career in college teaching. But in 2008, some health issues forced her to take time off which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The single-minded focus Benoit turned towards her work allowed it to grow and gain attention from galleries and collectors.
She is currently represented nationally and internationally by Morotti Arte Contemporanea, Milan, Italy; Thomas Punzmann Gallery, Frankfurt, Germany; Pentimenti Gallery, Philadelphia and Margaret Thatcher Projects, New York, New York. The artist’s forthcoming solo show in April 2019 promises to be her best one yet but beyond the immediate future, she has plans to slow down a bit, find some more time to think and experiment, and strategize for her next move. A new body of work is percolating in the back of Benoit’s mind: it might be large work, sculptural work, black-and-white work or work in glass and concrete.
Although Benoit started out as a painting and printmaking major in college, she has always had a talent for making sculptures. The artist’s early work used layers of paper, wax and Plexiglas. This morphed into painting strips of Plexiglas with vibrant acrylics and encaustic pigments, then laminating them. Benoit was trained to be a non-objective painter in her undergraduate studies but when she reached graduate school the focus was on personal narratives. So, Benoit began an archaeological dig, so to speak, and excavated a very unique language of color. She uses colors that are associated with layers of memories from her own life that she rearranges in the process of making her work as if she could rearrange the personal narrative of her own story.
Benoit was also taught to think first and then make. She has reversed this sequence in her artistic practice to maximum effect. The artist admits she is a bit of a hermit when she works. She has chosen to use a bulletproof type of Lucite and transparent color washes that are interspersed with pieces of apple plywood.