Written and Photographed by Doreen Dawkins
Tell me about your work.
I work primarily in a combination of wood and washy paper, which is made from Japanese paper mulberry fibers. I do a lot of laser cuts. I like laser cut flat packable lighting, furniture, and home goods. I also do a lot of work in steam bent wood staving and layered washy on a more terete organic and bent form. I combine a lot of those together. I recently had my first solo exhibition here where I had a lot of those combination pieces, along with traditional woodworking, CNC milling, all of that tied together with more modern forms as well.
Sidebar: His response sounded like the Charlie Brown teacher (wooomp woommmp wooomp woommmp). I didn’t understand anything he said, but I LOVE his work.
How did you pick your medium?
When I was growing up, my grandfather was a wood worker. I found out later that he considered himself the least talented wood worker in the family. I started wood working with my grandfather growing up. Later, I was an actor and props designer for theater and film for many years. I was moving to a 400 square foot apartment and I wanted a Christmas tree that I could pack away and hide in a little box. I designed a slotted plywood tree that I could pack away. Initially I did the first 10 of them on a 1920s Dremel Scroll Saw. It took about 10 hours per tree of cutting. My arthritis was swelling up my hands like grape fruits. A friend introduced me to the laser cutter. I got hooked.
Anything else? How do we contact you?
I’m a member of Studios on High Gallery 686 N. High Street in the Short North www.bensostrom.com. I do custom commission work.
Tell me about your work.
It is mixed media. Acrylic paint on recycled wood.
How did you get started?
I am a self-taught artist. I worked in Columbus City Schools on an art team. We had music, art, dance, and drama at Fair Avenue Elementary School. We had shows where we painted stages, props, etc. I started falling in love with the vocabulary of art: time, space, energy, form, composition. I was a dance teacher. Dance and art are integrated with those forms. They overlap.
I’m working towards a children’s book. I am really influenced by the 1960s, during the civil rights movement. People of color at that time were strong, and unified. A lot of the patterns and color I use in my work are from that era.
How do we contact you?
I’m a member of Studios on High Gallery 686 N. High Street in the Short North or
Tell me about your work.
I take old photographic portraits and turn them into a story (from my own mind) about the person in the photograph.
How long have you been doing it?
I came from a family of artists. I have been drawing and doing all kinds of stuff since I was young. The portrait stuff probably within the last 10 years.
What advice would you give a young person who wants to do what you do?
Practice. Do art work every day. Enter as many competitions as you can. Keep going. Keep putting your work out there. The art fairs are a good way to start out and get people’s feedback on your artwork.
I received the Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence award for 2019. I’m a member of Studios on High Gallery 686 N. High Street in the Short North.
Why a gallery?
I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t love art. I studied art education, then did gallery work in Charleston, SC. It made sense to combine my entrepreneurial background with art.
Is this like when a person goes gambling that the odds are tipped to the house? You are the house.
It depends on the month.
Do the artists pay both rent? How does it work?
No. If I have good inventory, we have clients that want that inventory. We are here to promote artists, to launch careers, to sustain and launch artists’ careers. We don’t just hang art on the walls. We do professional development with artists. We are writing letter references for artists, and coaching them on how to be a full-time artist. We call other galleries in another market that might be interested in their work. To survive as an artist often you have more than one gallery supporting you. There is a whole host of things we do with our artists. We have a client list that has been built up for 10 years. It is a very boutique style approach. It is a partnership between me and the artists. I must trust what they are doing and they must trust that I am going to bring clients for them.
If a young person wants to own a gallery what advice would you give them?
Start networking. It is as much about who you know as what you know.
Tell me about this picture.
It is alcohol ink on yupo paper. Yupo paper is kind of like a polypropylene sort of like a plastic. You can get the ink in all different pigments like hues. You mix the ink with rubbing alcohol and put it on this paper. You can move it around. It doesn’t absorb into the paper. It stays on the surface, so you can move it with your brush and/or rag. The alcohol evaporates then leaves this beautiful pigment. You can get intense colors. It is experimental.
These are based on the artists’ concern with pollution. You don’t get these types of sunsets unless there is a lot of pollution in the environment. People think the entire series of paintings are gorgeous. It is a way for the artist to process how he feels about the environment and use his voice as an artist to say something. It doesn’t have to be so politically charged in your face, it can still be beautiful.
Tell me why you do street entertainment.
I do street entertainment so I can Connect with people on an emotional basis. The reason I like street performance is that it prepares you for the stage. When you are on the stage, people expect you to play. When you are on the street, people either love you or hate you or they walk away. You get to grab the audience. It’s a great way to try out new stuff.
How long have you been doing street performances?
Five or six years and through the Short North Alliance for about three years.
You can find all my music at scottiegmusic.com.
What advice would you give a young person who wants to do what you are doing?
You can just play on the side of the road without a permit. But technically it is illegal. Just do it. If they tell you to stop, just stop. Chances are they are not going to arrest you, so just go out and have fun. Try not to be rude. Watch out for homeless people. I have been robbed before.
Parking is still a hassle in the Short North area. My disclaimer is I went on a rainy Saturday, so the crowds were not there. I still had a blast talking to the artists and performers and most of all admiring the art.