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art by Andrea Benson


I live and work in Portland, Oregon, having moved here in my mid-twenties after growing up in Pennsylvania in a small town on the edge of a forest. Like any good Northwesterner, I love the trees, mountains, rivers and the ocean, and even the half the year of grey drizzle that makes it easy to work in the studio or get lost in a book. I've always loved to walk, and feel that moving, looking and listening has a sizable influence on making.

Education: BFA in Art from Penn State and BFA in Interior Design from Marylhurst University

Publications & media:

  • "Encaustic Works 2012 - A biennial exhibition in print", published by R&F Handmade Paints

  • "Authentic Visual Voices: Contemporary Paper & Encaustic"  by Catherine Nash, 2013

  • "Oregon Art Beat": featured artist on Oregon Public Broadcasting TV, May 2011

  • "Embracing Encaustic" by Linda Robertson, e-book 2015 and print book 2008

  • "This Dirty Little Heart" poetry by B.T. Shaw, cover art, 2008

  • Oregon Home Magazine, artist profile in Nov./ Dec. 2006 issue

Recent Exhibits:

  • 2022   Brumfield Gallery, Astoria, Oregon

  • 2019   Imprint Gallery, Cannon Beach, Oregon,  Spring New Artists Show

  • 2019   Rental Sales Gallery of the Portland Art Museum, Spring and Fall Shows

  • 2018   Rental Sales Gallery of the Portland Art Museum, New Member Show

  • 2017   Portland'5 Center for the Arts, "Reflections" group show

  • 2015-17; Waterstone Gallery in Portland, member and exhibitor

  • 2016    Northwind Art Center, Port Townsend, WA, "Presence/Absence" an 8-person invitational exhibit.

  • 2014   Waterstone Gallery, Portland: "Hidden and Revealed", a 3-person exhibit

  • 2013    12x16 Gallery, Portland, invitational exhibit

  • 2013    Lake Oswego Festival of the Arts “Artists’ Vision: 50 Squared”, an invitational exhibit.

  • 2015, 14,13,12 & 11 Sitka Art Invitational: exhibit benefiting Sitka Center on the Oregon coast.

  • 2012    Island Museum of Art, Friday Harbor, WA: “Waxed”, invitational exhibit.

  • 2012    University of Portland, Buckley Center Gallery: “There Was a Tree”, two-person show.

  • 2012    Portland Center for Performing Arts: “Come to Your Senses”, a group encaustic art exhibit.

  • 2011, 09, 07 & 06 Portland Open Studios: a juried event of artists opening their studios to the public.

  • 2010   23 Sandy Gallery in Portland, OR: “Hands and Minds”, a solo exhibit of mixed media paintings.

  • 2010   Anka Gallery in Portland, OR: “Entangled”, a 4-person show.

  • 2010   Lake Oswego Festival of the Arts: “Luminous Layers”, a juried show of contemporary encaustic art.

About the Artwork

My art background includes work in drawing, printmaking, photography, ceramics, paper making and sewing, as well as working as a cook for several years, and later as an interior designer and space planner doing corporate interiors. Putting my hands onto material and working with it has always been compelling, as has trying to combine multiple media in some resonant way.

In 1999 I took an art school class on using encaustic wax-based paint and realized it was a material that could bring together many of the things I enjoyed when using other art media. Since 2003 I have been working with it intensively, using a wide variety of techniques, most often combining it with paper, drawing and collage. There's an appealing range of qualities to explore with encaustic: the ability to layer, obscure and excavate, to engrave and inlay line, and variations in transparency, opacity, saturation and subtlety of color. There is the transitory liquidity of heated wax paint; I get to melt things. 

One of my favorite parts of making images is the act of composition: the language of visual energetics, of relationship and proportion, in which each element affects the others. It’s a conversation taking place on a surface, where line, shape, color and pattern convey weight, direction and energy. Sometimes it's a puzzle to work out and sometimes a revelation, where a small thing can change everything. I often start with a simple drawing or layout, acting as a compositional scaffold to hang things from, and knowing that there will be a continual back and forth between structure and improvisation.

​A few years ago a friend brought another friend, who is a classical musician, to visit my studio. As she was looking at artworks she said she could hear them. I loved this because when I make these pieces I feel like I can hear them too. The world is constantly moving, shifting and rustling – wind, leaves, cells, hearts - a hum of arising and disintegration (maybe this is my tinnitus). And, hopefully, a still point is in there also. The world is speaking and you respond.

In strange times, when the news presents a comic dystopia and so much is in peril, I've felt more clearly that I don't want to add ugly to the world, but to make things that bend toward beauty, that offer a gesture of appreciation and respect for this place. Sometimes, I think of these pieces as a prayer, or a poem, being sent up by one who is amused, sad, perplexed and amazed - all at the same time.

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