Raising Environmental Awareness Through Art
Karen Benjamin is a successful self-taught artist who incorporates sustainability into her works by using recycled and found objects to create an environmental conversation aimed at raising awareness within her surrounding communities and around the world.
We asked Karen about her practice and how her journey as an artist is impacting positive change around her:
How would you describe your creative practice and how long have you been an artist for? ~ My creative practice is all about sustainability and listening to mother nature. I have been calling myself an artist for nearly five years now. It was always my dream to be an artist when I retired but when my children grew up I found I had a more time to myself and I decided I couldn’t wait until retirement!
Where are you based and how do you involve yourself and your art within the community? ~ I am based at Wellington Point. I am on the back of the koala corridor and the land where my house sits was once a flower farm. I like collaborations so I try to include others with my art. My local community has been wonderful to me. They collect all sorts of things for me such as plastic bags, plastic bottles, milk bottles, teabags, paper, flowers, wire, the list is endless. It also makes me realise that people really do care for the environment.
I notice you run workshops, do you have any coming up? ~ My first workshop for the year will be at Redland Art Gallery, Sunday 25 February from 10am till 1pm. It is a drop in family day and we will be creating Gumnut Garden Gnomes.
Where can people find and connect with you online? ~ On my website www.karenbenjaminartist.com or on Instagram.
How did you get interested in sustainability practices and incorporating this into your artwork? ~ I come from a family that always used sustainable practices, not because we were saving the planet but because we were saving our wallets! When I married and had children of my own these practices continued. I have also found personal satisfaction from restoring and recycling so incorporating this into my art was always going to happen because I don’t know any other way!
What does success mean to you? ~ Success to me means a happy and healthy family.
Can you share any exciting goals for 2018? ~ I have quite a few goals for 2018. One is to do more sculpture. Also last year I looked at death as a subject. I created a dress made from recycled teabags from a funeral home. I won the 2017 Palliative Care Art Prize. I want to continue this Dressed For Death series. 2018 will also see me collaborate with Nadine Schmoll on an artist Residency at the Eco Science Precinct in Brisbane.
How did you start getting your environmental message and artwork out there? ~ Starting out as an artist I didn’t know if my work would be accepted or not so I quietly entered some art competitions to see if my work would be considered from an unknown and self taught artist. This gave me the confidence to continue. Having a website has been very helpful and it is my voice which is great for me.
What advice would you give to people who want to kick start their creative practices and/or businesses? ~ My advice to anyone wanting to kickstart their creative practice is just give it a go. On my deathbed I didn’t want to think to myself I wish I had given art a go!
How do you feel your art is making a positive impact in the world and how can more artists benefit by following in your footsteps? ~ Nobody is more shocked than myself about how well my art practice is making an impact. My sustainability ideas were considered crazy years ago but timing is everything. Schools now teach sustainability to students. When I visit schools students are so receptive to my art, so to any sustainability artists out there this is your time!