Four questions for a young artist
Paul Belenky ’14 explores nature and ideas through art
Paul Belenky ’14 is a biology and studio art major from Newton, Mass. When he’s not in the studio or the lab, he pursues outdoor adventure in Canada and Alaska.
As an artist, what is the world with which you are engaged?
My art explores both the natural world and the world of ideas. Usually I have an idea for a work of art that comes from some experience in the real world that I flesh out with research. But I personally never strive for complete realism in my work. To me, “art as transformation” means art can provide alternative ways to look at things by transforming them into something that’s a bit skewed from direct reality.
What did you do over your summer break?
This past summer I assisted studio art faculty member Lucy Kim in her studio. The first thing we did was go to the beach. She wanted to make a large sculpture mold of textured sand and beach debris at low tide. I helped with preparations — finding a location and building the supports for the mold. There were so many variables, like the sand and the tide, and at first I was really skeptical that it would work, but the mold came out fantastic.
What have you learned as an artist?
I’ve learned it’s important to make multiples of an idea and to be ready to make unexpected changes to adapt to unpredicted outcomes. It has inspired me to keep working with the idea of the giant clam sculpture that Olivia Leiter ’14 and I made out of metal and fabric for the 2013 Leonard Bernstein Festival of the Creative Arts. It was called “Innermost Parts” and inverted the viewer’s expectations of what is hard or soft, inside or outside, truth or imagination. I’m interested in how a biological clam functions compared to this fictional clam.
If you were in charge, which three guest artists or lecturers would you bring to campus this year?
First, Roger Ballen, who did the installations for my favorite music video, “I Fink U Freeky” by Die Antwoord. Ballen’s work is gritty and sort of “brut.” I would love to hear how he came to work that way and whether it was just an aesthetic choice or whether he was influenced by his experience. Second, the Brazilian twin graffiti artists, Os Gêmeos. Their work is very accessible to the non-artsy. Third, the Swiss surrealist painter, sculptor and set designer, H.R. Giger. His work is remarkably bizarre, and I would like to hear about how he gets away with pushing the boundaries of what viewers could consider either art or grotesque.