Taylor French Benoit

I would like to know what it means to be a nature lover in the 21st century. How do we reconcile our explicit ecological actualities with the long and storied lineage of ideated dupery (philosophical, aesthetic, economic, etc.) that has constructed such a substantial perceptual labyrinth in regards to our relationship to the natural? What is this hubristic and conditional limerence that decides when and where the natural takes place for our own benefit and psychological wellbeing? How did we manage to cultivate an ethos in which to love is also to destroy?

My studio practice is concerned with sculpture and painting as spaces of reckoning, as spaces for the action or process of calculating or estimating the distance between Nature and ideas of nature. I am persistently both fascinated and frustrated by the conditional relationships we foster with the natural world that are born out of human exceptionalism: the forces that work to push the notion that we are mere spectators of the natural realm. Given this frustration, I am interested in describing the ceaseless instances of cognitive dissonance that afford us the psychological and spiritual head space to simultaneously romanticize and exploit the natural environment. I’ve begun to think of these instances as my material or medium from which I can tease, elucidate, and expedite the latent and untenable forms of otherness that are responsible for our current ecological crisis. My hope is that these forms might function as a cautionary semiotics: signage for the inevitable consequences of linear thought, normative embrace, and all the nodes of imperial residue that still pervade our socio-political and economic structures.

I find that we leap in and out of the delusion of otherness, able to feel connected to all there is one moment and unable the next. Oscillating between our ecological and environmental convictions as needed, we embrace and retreat from our kinship with the natural. My work is concerned with describing this dichotomy of being and how we delineate spaces of nature and non-nature perceptually. What are the conditions and resulting form, that describe the way in which we “reconnect” to a natural world we were never apart from?

My studio practice is currently committed to investigating when, where, and how the minimalist insistence on the here and now over-laps with what Evan Eisenberg termed “the gorgeous paralysis” and “convivial yawns” of the pastoralist genre. The confluence of these spatial and temporal modalities create a critical framework that can elucidate the promises and pitfalls of how we choose to see the natural world. Together they work to reveal the ways in which we fictionalize our surroundings through various eco narratives and myths. What can be learned as the persistence of pastoralism's perpetual noontime haze rubs against minimalisms credo of consciousness in regards to the actualities of place? There is a particular kind of friction these two ontologies generate that I am interested in.

— Taylor French Benoit, Winter 2021.