Ben Steele paints in conversation with his classical training, allowing him to respond to modern life through the tropes and techniques of the Old Masters. Ever experimenting with subject matter and composition, he allows the realism of trompe l’oeil to layer with Pop retorts and contemporary comebacks. Lively dialogue ensues in the presence of his paintings.
At the University of Utah, Steele studied under the painter and sculptor David Dornan and continued to apprentice with him and Paul Davis through the Helper Workshops. The small coal and railroad town that served as the setting for his intensive training remains his home today. Steele continues to work as Dornan does, nurturing multiple canvases simultaneously. His studio harbors a rowdy mix of subjects from still life and portraits to landscapes and composites. He lives for the variety.
His polyvalent style emerged after years of exploration, starting with an early fascination for crayons and chrome objects. Examining those surfaces refined his skills for rendering light, color and reflection, as well as his instinct for close observation. To achieve luminosity, he deploys the classical techniques of glazing and scumbling. The latter is distinct from the former through its use of an opaque coating in a pointillist manner that allows colors to mix optically. The resulting effect lends atmospheric character to his compositions.
Equipped with such fine skills, Steele never stays in one mode for too long. Instead, he travels through art’s historical and pop cultural references, arriving at scenes defined by his own lyrical sensibility. Whether it is Vermeer and Lichtenstein or hard candies and Wild West figurines, they can share the same dialogic space. In his paintings and his practice, personality pervades.