It’s hard to shake the desire to “solve” art. We’ve all been there—faced with an eye-catching work, buzzing with color, line, and form, we squint and ponder, grasping for the nearest gallery guide or explanation, trying to figure out what it all means.
The reality is that art is not the Sunday morning crossword. It’s not a puzzle to be solved. Its subjectivity invites you to develop your own connection, to wrestle with your own feelings, and to figure out what it all means to you.
As for Benjamin Currie, he’s only beginning to crack the complex code behind his compositions.
“I think it’s interesting when people ask me about style,” the 26-year-old artist says. “I still feel like I’m molding my own. It’s something I struggled with a lot in school, and I’m just now feeling like I have a direction for what I’d like it to be.”
Beneath the backdrops of rich navy, brushstrokes of magnificent mulberry, or splashes of intense black, Benjamin molds his dark-hued compositions with a “mixture of decorative, nature-based aesthetic, and conceptual minimalism” and heavier, personal implications.
“I often like to illustrate the unsaid nuances of the characters in my works—who often reflect myself in a lot of ways,” Benjamin says. “My goal is to make every piece a self-portrait in some way, even if I’m the only one who notices the similarities. I think I naturally gravitate toward heavier themes involving heartbreak, struggle, or the lack of connection. I’ve struggled with those since I was very young, so it’s satisfying to create imagery that points to that, or hints at the act of overcoming.”
While his artworks contain hidden themes and private expressions, the Benjamin’s own artistic inception is quite clear. Born and raised in Joliet, Illinois, Benjamin attended Joliet Junior College for a couple of years to study video games. It was here, however, he met artist and professor Steve Sherrell, who helped him realize his passion for illustration.
“I really began to gravitate toward Japanese woodblock printing and illustration as a medium,” he recalls. “The combination of bold line work and flat color resonated with me, and it became my most prominent source of inspiration—even to this day.”
With a jumpstart in Joliet, Benjamin settled on the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, moving to the Twin Cities in 2011 and graduating with a degree in illustration in 2015. Since then, the young artist continues to hone his internal artistic code, for when he’s not working as a barista and slinging cold press coffees dashed with cocktail bitters, he has a bigger, future game plan in store.
“Ideally, in five years, I would like to see myself drawing and freelancing full-time in a tiny coffee shop somewhere in Europe or Asia,” he says. “Basically, anything that would let me be an artsy nomad. […] I would love to get into book covers, gig posters, and large, site-specific wall graphics.”
It’s a dream yet to be completely deciphered. But until that time, Benjamin Currie will continue to do what he’s thoughtfully done for years—create illustrative works, born of self-reflection, which invite us to do the same.