(Above: Detail from “Forest Nativity,” an oil-on-canvas painting by Eugene artist Benjamin Terrell. His work is on display at the Springfield Museum; photos by Paul Carter)
By Randi Bjornstad
Eugene artist Benjamin Terrell describes his current foray in the painting world as “exploring landscapes of the unknown.”
“I don’t plan out my paintings too much,” Terrell said. “I can draw, but I don’t rely on that, because I want to take a more childlike approach in which there is magic and beauty — I want to end up with things I don’t plan, in terms of colors, motifs, animals.”
Like writers, painters often are advised to “paint about what you know,” an admonition that Terrell said he doesn’t follow.
“I think the truth often comes more from what you don’t know than what you do,” he said. “It’s a balance of the intentional and the non-intentional that helps keep me creative.”
Most of the canvases in “Come Into This World, Terrell’s show at the Springfield Museum, are large, abstract and shimmering with color, a characteristic Terrell’s partner, Claudia Ponton, admires.
The couple met at the White Lotus Gallery, where Ponton worked, and each separately had known the gallery owners for more than 20 years.
“One day they told me I should see his paintings, and we just kind of hit it off instantaneously,” she said. “To me, the ‘magicalness’ Benjamin’s work is that he has the freedom of expression to let his art become what it is intended to be.”
Terrell has been surrounded by art from early childhood. He was born in Portland, but the family moved to Memphis, Tenn., when he was young. His parents and brother all were working journalists, and his mother also painted. Once in Memphis, important for its music industry, “I became a music guy,” he said. “Those were the Blues times in Memphis.”
After graduating from high school, he attended the Art Institute of Chicago. “I was accepted on the basis of a sketchbook,” Terrell said with a laugh. “It was a funny time to be there, in the ’80s — David Sedaris was my writing teacher — it was a funky time in Chicago.”
He returned to Oregon about 20 years ago, working in area record shops long enough to be be able to have his own business, CD/Game Exchange. He now owns Epic Seconds at 30 E. 11th Ave. in downtown Eugene. The store specializes in vinyl records, but Terrell said cassette tapes also are making a comeback, especially among the younger crowd.
His view of music is a bit like his view of painting.
“I think people want to experience music the same way they want to experience art — they don’t want a shallow connection — they want to see it, feel it and enjoy some kind of tactile reaction,” Terrell said. “And they also really like being around other people, learning from each other and feeling a sense of community.”
He calls himself “kind of a ‘low-fi’ guy.”
With digital sound, “You kind of lose the highs and lows,” Terrell said. “When I hear music, I want to hear it all — I want to feel its emotion. I want to emulate the same thing in my painting — I want it to feel beautiful.”
Come Into This World
When: Through March 3
Where: Springfield Museum, 590 Main St. in downtown Springfield
Hours: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursday through Saturday
Information: 541-726-3677, springfield-museum.com or Benjamin Terrell on Facebook