Artist Benjamin Muñoz loves to create art, but he might like talking with people about the art he has created even more. It’s the dialogue he enjoys, he says – simply giving an artist talk to a crowd often feels too one-sided for his liking. “I think I get the most out of my own work when I hear how other people react to it,” Muñoz says.
“People could be connecting in their own ways,” he says. “And there’s so much going on in their minds that I could benefit from. That conversation could enrich us, like as human beings. And none of that happens when I’m speaking to a lot of people, but one on one, we get all of that.”
For his current exhibit of largescale woodcuts, Muñoz is taking a novel approach to both the artist talk and the current need for social distancing. The exhibit, titled Over My Head, is on display at Flatbed press and available to view either as an online gallery or by appointment in person. And in lieu of a traditional artist talk (which wouldn’t be feasible these days) Muñoz is taking appointments for patrons to come to the gallery one at a time to view Over My Head and then have a one-on-one conversation with him about the work. He says he and the guest will be at least six feet apart and separated by a coffee table for the duration of the conversation, which could last as long as an hour.
It’s a concept he’s had in mind for a long time. “I craved that, and I wanted to do the one-on-one thing, but it just wasn’t possible,” he says. “It wasn’t practical until right now.”
The show itself will largely consist of two bodies of work. “The first is called The Endless Endeavor,” Muñoz says. “It documents the story of my family, starting with my grandfather coming to the United States, and it explores the generations in between and ends with my daughters. So that’s a really fun thing that I’ve spent like maybe eighteen months carving.”
The second series, Familia, documents the role of family. Muñoz has been carving this series for a while; the father of two says “I didn’t have two kids when I started carving that, that’s how long the process was.” He says he’s come to better understand his role in the ongoing story of his family while he’s been working on the series. “[I’m] kind of understanding that now and understanding my role of oh, this is much bigger than me and I’m just one part of this endless cycle of life.”
Muñoz says he tries to make his work as specific to his experience as possible. “I didn’t want it to be about ideas of things,” he says. “I wanted to give personal examples of how I’ve seen things in my own life, how I’ve seen racism in my own family and how I’ve seen greed impact my family. And I think personal experiences are just so much more powerful than saying ‘You know, XYZ is a problem.’”
By creating art that’s personal to him, Muñoz has found that his audience creates their own interpretation of the work and often gives him back insights that he hadn’t thought of himself. “They say things sometimes that… it’s about my own work and I’m like ‘I didn’t even realize that,’” he says. “And that constantly happens, that give and take. And it changes the way I think about the work, and it makes me realize things. So I love that.”