Visiting artist talks printmaking and Black experience

Artist Ben Blount took the spotlight Nov. 7, in the Wriston Auditorium to present his work in a presentation called “See Something, Say Something.” 

Blount is a visual artist specializing in books, type and, as he put it, “putting ink on paper.” As a child, Blount was an “art kid,” and started out his journey to a career in the arts by drawing Snoopy and other Peanuts cartoon characters. He also told stories to go along with the comics he drew and listened to hip-hop that had bases in activism. These experiences he cited as influential to the kind of artist he is now. 

He grew up in Detroit and attended a school with primarily Black students. Then, for college, he attended Washington University in St. Louis and obtained a degree in graphic design. From there, he took some printmaking classes and fell in love with the medium. Because he took these classes and loved them so much, he went to grad school for letterpress at Columbia College in Chicago. His chosen medium even now is the letterpress, handprinted with wood type. 

Much of his work now is centered around being Black and how people can evolve and inform their thinking on race and the Black experience. One notable exhibit that he created was called “Eyes Wide Shut.” It featured 100 letterpress posters plastered in a 10-by-10-foot room with the phrase “white supremacy is,” followed with an adjective such as “traumatic,” “intentional,” “all the rage” or “asinine.” The idea came to him as he considered whether there was a difference between white supremacy and racism. The exhibit was designed to illustrate that there really is not. 

In another piece, a book, he transcribed the stories people told him about the first time they felt like “the other.” The results were individual and humanizing and unifying; a testament that there are so many ways that people can be better to each other. 

With each piece he creates, Blount sets out to start a conversation and to inspire people to move, act or do something they have not done before in an effort to understand cultural differences a little better. He said to his audience in Wriston that everyone needs to realize that “people outside of you are affected by things.” 

From Nov. 5 until Nov. 7, Blount spent time with the printmaking students here at Lawrence to start work on his latest project, which draws attention to the 400th anniversary of the first African slaves coming to America, which was in 1619. Students gained valuable time in the print studio with him, and he worked with them to pull prints for the first several pages of the book that he will finish in his studio, Make, in Evanston, Ill. 

Among the advice that Blount gave, one big thing that he practices himself is that even though he frequently has doubts about his art, he believes that it is important to put it out there regardless of whether he thinks it is good enough or not. For more information on Blount, he can be found on Instagram @Blountben, as well as on his website, benblount.com

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