Detroit based artist Ben Blount talks with Esthetic Lens about how the pandemic has altered his creative practice. He talks about how the content of his work has been influenced by the current circumstances of our world.
1. How are you holding up?
It’s up and down. This has been an opportunity to spend more time in the print shop—that’s good. Working from home and having to social distance has really focused my energy on how to make work that connects with people. I’ve had some high highs and some low lows these last few months. But as we roll into 2021, I’m optimistic about the future.
2. Has Covid-19 had an effect on your work? If so, in what way?
It has really influenced the content. I typically get my ideas from interacting with people and the conversations and experiences people are having. And right now, it’s all COVID, all the time, so it’s definitely seeped its way into my work. I’ve been thinking about the power of print and how it can help affect change. So, leveraging print and printed language to inform, to galvanize around ideas, to get at the heart of things.
3. Is there anything you’ve added to your practice that you’d like to keep after this is over?
Since been “working from home” from my studio and so I get to spend a lot more time with the type and paper and press than I typically do. So, I’d like to carry that over when we’re back on the streets again. Being surrounded by the tools has been helpful making work with some consistency. I’ve also done a fair amount of collaboration during this time. I’m excited about the possibilities of these ongoing projects and hope to continue to collaborate in the future.
4. Of the artists you follow, who is handling this particularly well?
My friend Rick Griffith in Denver made the decision to “be industrious” during this time and I’ve been inspired by that. The other thing that I’ve noticed is that when Rick has the opportunity to speak to an audience (designers, artists, educators, students, etc.) he takes the time to mention the work of other artists in a way that really uplifts them and also broadens the conversation beyond just his particular focus and output. It’s really powerful to use one’s platform in that way and feels especially right for this somewhat divisive time we’re in.
5. Are there any artists, filmmakers, albums, or genres you’ve been drawn to during the crisis? If so, why?
I’ve been having lots of good interactions and conversations with other printers these last 6 months. I’ve seen the letterpress community really work to find ways to make this tactile and hands-on art form accessible and available to people during the pandemic. I’ve been drawn to the support they show other printers and the way they’ve used their voices and presses in support of larger, systemic issues. Music is always a balm for me. Spotify told me I’ve been listening to a lot of Emily King this year. We saw her live at SPACE in Evanston right before the pandemic hit. It was an amazing show.
Ben Blount is a Detroit born artist, designer and letterpress printer that loves books, type, and putting ink on paper. His work often explores questions of race and identity and the stories we tell ourselves about living in America. Ben is a believer in the power of the printed word and shares his passion for print and design speaking to students and educators around the country and as a board member of Artists Book House and Fine Press Book Association. His artists books and prints are included in prominent collections including The Newberry Library and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Ben currently prints out of MAKE, his storefront studio in Evanston, IL.