Gretchen Frances Bennett: Air, the free or unconfined space above the surface of the earth

February 16 – June 2, 2019

Seattle-based artist Gretchen Frances Bennett explores issues related to visual perception at the intersection of personal and historical memory. Working primarily in drawing, she demonstrates a preoccupation with mundane yet cinematically-inflected moments that retain the fascination of a time diffuse between past and present. She is perhaps best known for luminous color pencil translations of personal photographs and artifacts of popular media, as in a series of drawings of Kurt Cobain based on YouTube videos and the Gus van Sant film, Last Days (2005). Acknowledging the fragmentary and intermediary nature of her source material, Bennett often includes “surface evidence” within her drawings, like accidental tears in the original photograph, the grain of lo-fi digital video imagery, or the color imbalances of inkjet print-outs.

Recently Bennett’s practice has extended to writing. In conjunction with a collection of personal essays and poems that she has been working on for over a year, she is creating a slideshow in collaboration with photographer Paulo Castillo and a series of time-intensive, large-scale drawings that examine constructed and deconstructed notions of the self, particularly in relation to her own social formation as a white woman. Based on sources ranging from photographs taken during childhood travels to stills from Céline Sciamma’s film Tomboy (2011) and screen grabs from online spiritual guides’ video channels, this new body of work tracks Bennett’s process of deprogramming, healing, and (continual) re-becoming by retracing and unfolding her own adolescence. Air, the free or unconfined space above the surface of the earth showcases these new works alongside a selection of key pieces from previous moments in Bennett’s practice, revealing the artist’s special ability to spark unexpected poetic associations across time and subject matter.

Gretchen Frances Bennett’s (American, b.1960, Portland, Oregon) recent projects include the exhibitions Becoming American, San Juan Island, WA (2018); Fire in the Mountains, Jackson, WY (2018); and The Rough Draft of Everything, Bridge Productions, Seattle, WA (2017). She has read her writing at the Holiday Forever Gallery, Jackson, WY (2017) and as part of the series This Might Not Work at INCA, Seattle, WA (2016). In 2014, Bennett received the Seattle Art Museum’s Betty Bowen Special Recognition Award and completed postgraduate work at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is presently at work on her first collection of essays.

Gretchen Frances Bennett is organized by the Frye Art Museum and curated by Amanda Donnan. Generous support is provided by Vulcan, Inc.

Gretchen Frances Bennett. Blue Like Nevermind (Last Days), 2008. Colored pencil on paper. 13 x 20 in. Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Steven Miller.

Gretchen Frances Bennett. Honeymoon View with Windscreen and Small Tear, 2016. Colored pencil on paper. 38 x 50 in. Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Jueqian Fang.

Gretchen Frances Bennett. Vesna is Spring, Venus is Venus. 2017. Graphite pencil on Japanese screen paper. 38 x 66 in. Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Jueqian Fang.