The Architect’s Wife had the pleasure of sitting down with the talented, young artist, Ben Pease to discuss his work. Based here in Bozeman, Ben is an undergraduate art student at Montana State University. He is an up-and-coming local artist who currently has a show at the Emerson Center for the Arts through April 29th.
Ben Pease at work on a new piece titled “Apsaalooke War Party.”
The Architect’s Wife: How long have you been painting?
Ben Pease: I started around 2004 while in high school, and within the last four years I have focused primarily on Native Art.
AW: You live here in Bozeman, but where are you from originally?
BP: Hardin, MT just past Billings. I am from the Crow and Northern Cheyenne Nations.
AW: How has your heritage influenced your work?
BP: My work is about Indian culture and how we got to where we are now. I am exploring our past and our future, and specifically how our past affects our future. I draw inspiration from learning about my culture. I’ve recently taken on the task of narrating Aboriginal struggles through my artwork. I am drawn to contemporary storytelling and feel a strong desire to educate. My art is a meditation on the history of the American Indian and the influence of European colonization, both the good and the bad.
AW: What would you like people to know about your heritage?
BP: My ancestors say that we are not American Indian and our culture actually goes much farther back. We use the term BiiLuuke which translates to “the people.” Meaning we are all the people of this world, and there should be no boundaries. We are all here to share this earth and this human experience.
AW: You incorporate a lot of artifacts in your work. Where do they come from? And how do they add meaning to your pieces?
BP: Many of the things I use are found in antique or junk shops. I also work with a local picker who searches for pieces for me. Artifacts I collage into my paintings include buffalo nickels, food ration tickets, vintage ledger paper from historical Montana records and Anaconda newspapers from the early 1900’s and much more. Individually, they have historical significance and these found objects help me tell the story of my native/aboriginal roots and how they relate to and were affected by European colonialism. Each of my pieces is a vehicle for this theme.
AW: How has your work been received in your hometown of Hardin?
BP: Everyone back home seems to gravitate to my work. They see it as an educational tool for younger people in our community.
AW: What is the most challenging thing about being an artist?
BP: Time management is my biggest challenge. Juggling running a business, attending college, social media, networking is tough. I manage all this while trying be there for my family, it’s a constant balancing act.
AW: What advice do you have for aspiring artists, especially young artists in your hometown?
BP: Follow your dream. I’m not one to sit behind a desk or push papers. I love sports, so I played football for four years of college. I am passionate about art and educating my people about our history. So I am focussed on my art now. Follow what feels right to you. Have a good work ethic. Persistence and hard work will lead you to where you’re supposed to be.
One of Ben’s pieces, “Indian Police” at The Architect’s Wife.
If you haven’t had the pleasure of seeing Ben’s work, stop our furniture store to see a few of his pieces or hurry over to his solo show at the Emerson Center before April 29th. He will be a featured artist at the Out West Art Show (one of the premiere Western art shows in the country) in Great Falls, MT next week from March 16-19. Not only that, but you can also see his handiwork at MAP Brewing. Next time you’re there, take a gander at the mantel above the fireplace.
The Architect’s Wife is honored to have made Ben’s acquaintance and even more honored to have his work in her shop. Keep an eye on this local talent; he is an artist to watch — AW can’t wait to see where this accomplished painter is headed!