Benge Elliott on his life as an artist.

Standing in front of a Cezanne painting in Houston, Texas in the late seventies I realized that an artist did not have to travel to some exotic spot to become inspired.  Cezanne had painted Mont Ste. Victoire many times during his career.  He was able to view it on a daily basis outside his back door.  No matter how familiar it was, he was inspired to paint the subject repeatedly, always finding a way to portray the view in a new and refreshing way.  At that moment, I realized what it was I wanted to do and where I wanted to do it. 

After graduating from college with a degree in Advertising Design, a stint in production art in Dallas, Texas, an extended stay painting and drawing in San Miguel de Allende, a three-year baptism by fire teaching Middle School in San Antonio, Texas, I was home. I had come to the realization that the Texas Hill Country was inspirational.  As a young person growing up in San Marcos, Texas I Had taken the countryside and its inhabitants for granted.  In my creative pursuits I had looked past all the things that draw people to this area.  Why not use the things I was most familiar with as the focus of my work.  In 1980, I used my design, graphics and drawing background to fuel my efforts with welded steel and thirty-two years later, I still love where I am at and what I am doing.  Dreams wrought in faith come true and mine are certainly a reality.

THE INDUSTRIAL TRIBE

    In 1988 I began working with more abstract themes inspired by Pecos Style rock art.  The inspiration was sparked by a trip to the Lower Trans Pecos area near Comstock, Texas and the confluence of the Pecos and Rio Grande rivers to visit Fate Bell Rock Shelter, Parida Cave and Panther Cave. The next year I made a return trip.  Shortly thereafter these images became the inspiration for a new vocabulary wrought in steel echoing the pictographs.  Many artists have taken a similar approach but I wished to separate myself from just copying the pictographs as has been common in contemporary steel work.  With a representational approach my focus had been figurative employing found objects that accented the physiology of the figures.

   Whether avian, animal, or human, the finished sculpture was recognizable.  My early Trans Pecos pieces began with simple masks.  These masks began to acquire staffs on which to place them, evolving into entire bodies.  Since that time series entitled Sentinels, Hunters and Warriors have evolved.  A dear friend coined the phrase, “The Industrial Tribe” and the name stuck.  The Industrial Tribe found a following and has become an important part of my artistic DNA.  It has allowed me to enjoy stepping out of the norms required for more figurative work and allowed me to play with pure design. Efforts in this genre represent some of the largest pieces I have produced.

BRONZES
Pouring my work in bronze has been a life long dream and it finally came to fruition in 2009.  I cast my first piece in my shop using the lost wax process.  All bronzes are small, two to ten pounds.  The entire process is completed in house from the wax model to the pouring, chasing and patina application.  I have always felt when you use the services of a foundry, a small group of technicians execute the work and the last person to touch the piece is not the artist.




CUSTOM GATES
    In the Texas Hill Country gates are ubiquitous and include all manner of decoration.  They can be found at the entrance to a large ranch or a small residential property. In the early eighties there were fewer than you see now and my work of that period fit the profile for most gates. My efforts in this realm include ranch gates, gates to residential properties, garden gates and privacy fence gates. I realized to stay relevant I must stay one step ahead others doing the same thing.  My background with woodblock printing and silkscreen printing gave my gates their characteristic look and I employed that technique until my welding improved and I could really stretch the genre into the area of sculpture.  This is best exemplified in the gates created for Blue Hole Regional Park, Wimberley, Texas.

                                           CUSTOM LIGHTING
    In 1986, after several years of welding animals, birds and fish I began to design and create light sconces. The addition of lighting broadened the scope of my work to include utilitarian items.  As I embraced the design problems regarding lighting, I discovered the relationship of my steel pieces to my woodblock and linoleum prints of the early seventies.  They had a decorative quality akin to the use of positive and negative space in block printing.  The lights became a three dimensional clone of my block prints and it gave the fixtures a Benge twist. A two year relationship with Old World Hardware in Santa Fe, New Mexico brought multimedia into the mix with the addition of glass, mica and forged iron.  Whether a chandelier, light sconce, or table lamp, it was an addition to my artistic arsenal and it gave a breadth to my welding that complimented the other work I was doing.