Whitworth University 2020 Faculty Biennial

Ben Necochea Part 1

Welcome back.  Today we take a look at the piece exhibited by Ben Necochea.  Ben is the most recent addition to Whitworth’s Art Department and will be in charge of the Graphic Design program.  Along with an image of his artwork, today’s post includes Ben’s Artist Statement.

El Injerto – The Graft, digital illustration, 2020, 36×22.5 inches, $100

“…and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree,” – Romans 11:17

The image of grafting a foreign plant so that it might flourish from an established root system of another has been embedded in my mind for a long time. To compare myself to that grafted plant and to understand that once grafted, I partake in the privileges that flow from that union, makes me appreciate that I am no longer struggling to survive on my own. It is a beautiful relationship in which the trunk I am grafted into does not change me into something I am not. It simply nourishes and strengthens me into giving fruit that I was originally designed to produce. 

To really grasp the concept, I imagined two extremely contrasting plants; the nopal (prickly pear) and a red cedar. The nopal, as a member of the cactus family survives in desert climate with little to no water and yet, the paddle and its fruit are edible and were a prominent staple for me growing up. The red cedar is slow growing, long lived and resistant to decay, which makes me think of a solid foundation upon which to grow. As I began creating the imagery the influence of family and culture came to mind. I thought of Loteria, the bingo-like game I grew up playing with my siblings and how with simple illustrations it was used to teach reading writing, history and social values. 

This card is a visual statement of being grafted into a solid foundation in which one can flourish. Whether it is faith, family, culture or location when we are embraced in truth by those who have proceeded us, we are encouraged to produce good fruit without being changed into something we were never meant to be. 

Along with the above statement, Ben also had this to say about the opportunity to exhibit in the Bryan Oliver Gallery, “I am thankful for the opportunity to create work that is not client based. It has been over 20 years since I got to show work in a gallery, so this was actually fun to do and I look forward to doing something like this again. When designing for clients you need to follow the parameters and the desires of the client while attempting to instill your own voice, style, or aesthetic in the work. This project allowed me to be completely free and in charge of the subject, the message and everything in between. It was a bit daunting (even with just one piece), but worth the experience and is adding fuel to the desires of doing more things like this in the future.”

If you are interested in seeing more of Ben’s work, check out the link below, and come back tomorrow for part two of his interview.


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