Jeff Bender


Collage and Drawing on Handmade Paper, 22″ x 30″

Artist Statement: My art is a record of childlike discovery–a conscious step away from that which appears sophisticated beyond my character. I constantly reacquaint myself with a child’s vision, working in series with whatever’s around (aprons, bugs, table scraps, car parts). There is an honesty and innocence in a child’s approach to creating; both primitive and naive, their art evokes the simplest of rituals and stories within their arm’s-length world. They are not concerned with making art, much less making good art. They are alert to wonder, curious of nature. They ask directly to sort the un- from the predictable so they may be free to learn more, laugh more, and live more. Creating is fun to a child and is indistinguishable from play. I am at best when I am as a child and play. There I find freedom, love, and honesty. It makes little difference whether the act of creating produces a basket, print, poem, or an installation.

Everywhere in my works one finds silly creatures or people in awkward and unlikely situations. The characters are often interrupted by mark-making incongruous with the very nature of the piece, creating a kind of humor. Caught in an open but beguiling narrative, there characters balance tentatively between reality and fantasy (as between pea soup and sea poop). Discarded objects–humanity’s trash–provides another type of vocabulary for my art. Junk is a metaphor in my art for man’s mistakes. Interacting with characters, the junk is as frail as life, inculcated with acceptance and forgiveness in my art. They reveal an interest I have always had in the use of inconsistent subject matter and techniques of mark-making in the same piece.

Everywhere the art seems to trip over itself. Getting up to try again, scribble becomes smoke from a chimney or a wave of an ocean. Mistakes are offered and owned as honest, valid acts. Mistakes are a regression, a necessary step to progression. My art, then, becomes a time to play, not a thing to make. It is an art of absurd narratives, unpretentious mark-making, and non-art. This art does not impose a seriousness as “high art” but impresses the viewer as that which could only be made from playful discipline. As Picasso stated, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain one once he grows up.”

Jeff Bender is a writer/artist who writes about life and has a life that is about his art. While the two skills often intersect, both reflect a zeal for the spontaneous, the curious and most things that are breathing. Always supplementing his stories with constructions and collages, his artwork is held in collections both public and private, both regionally and internationally. He holds an MFA in printmaking from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville and a BA in Art from the College of Wooster. More about Jeff can be found at, Instagram: @authorjeffbender, or through his podcast Knee Deep.

A Song for Jeff

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