UNION — A man who walked from Russia to Germany, the fall of the Soviet Union, a man delivering milk in the Azores, and the impact of Christianity upon Western Civilization were the inspirations for some of the works of a local artist now on display at the UCAC Art Gallery.
The Union County Arts Council hosted a reception for artist Sheldon Bennett Thursday morning at the Art Gallery on Main Street in downtown Union. A collection of Bennett’s’ work entitled “Dreams in the Waking World” is currently on display at the gallery through Sept. 19. The exhibit includes 60 of the paintings Bennett said he has painted over the past 20 years but which he never expected to be publicly exhibited.
“I’m honored, I’m surprised and honored, this is wonderful,” Bennett said about his work being exhibited at the gallery. “I started painting 20 years ago and they (the paintings) have been hanging on the walls in my house. I didn’t think they were worth looking at.”
The paintings might have remained unseen by the general public had Bennett not shown some of his work on his cellphone to some friends. One of those friends, Steve Reneau, was impressed and asked Bennett to let him take pictures of the paintings. Bennett allowed him to and Reneau, after photographing and examining the paintings, arranged for 60 of Bennett’s paintings to be exhibited at the gallery.
During Thursday’s reception, Bennett discussed his work, pointing out that “I don’t have a style” and that he simply paints, with much of his work not inspired by anything in particular. However, Bennett said that some of his paintings are inspired by things he has been witnessed and/or learned about.
One of those paintings is “Pursuit of Happiness” which Bennett said was inspired by the life story of an art teacher he had. Bennett said the teacher was from Russia and had actually walked from that country to Germany and then made his way to New York City where he eventually became an artist and an art teacher who he studied under. It was during this time that Bennett said he painted Pursuit of Happiness.
“Ilha Do Faial, OSacores” depicts a man with a donkey delivering milk on a street. Bennett said the painting is based on a photograph he took of a street scene in the Azores in the 1950s.
Bennett said that “Perestroika” is a personal favorite of his friend Reneau who he said has expressed an interest in acquiring it. The painting depicts a woman in Russia selling a few loaves of bread and a few other items on a street. Bennett said the painting was inspired by the fall of the Soviet Union and ensuing economic collapse in Russia that followed. He said the woman in the painting is selling what little she has to try to get enough money to live on in the deeply impoverished post-Soviet Russia.
“Christ and Disciples” was painted because Bennett feels Christianity has been an important and influential part of the history of western civilization.
For more information about “Dreams in the Waking World” and about the Union County Arts Council and upcoming artistic events call 864-429-2817.
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090.