Is There an Ideal Age to Be an Artist?
Lynda Benglis spoke to Charlotte Jansen
Lynda Benglis was born in Louisiana, 1941
When I made works like Minos and Siren in the 1970s, I was thinking about my time scuba diving in California and how one might see something or feel when underwater—that buoyancy—and the idea that a woman always feels the buoyancy of her body and cycles. I think intuitively I was referring to the feeling that we float, like a mermaid or a pregnant being. Artists all through time allow themselves the freedom of doing that.
I am the oldest of five children, and I always knew I wanted to invent things. I invented stories for my sister about all of our dolls coming alive on New Year’s Day. I think that in the same way, my works have to have energy. I like the idea of the material taking on the symbol of life.
I’m having an interesting experience lately, and I had it when I was a child. I look and I have an illusion—my mind does tricks as if I’m stoned. I first experienced it with my mother when I was around six years old; I could somehow control the space of her face, and this is what is happening to me now. I like to try and see how I can make materials appear to shift.
Art is my best way of passing my time; to do something that’s pleasurable but also pleases other people. It gives me a lot of pleasure to be desired in that way. But it was a risk I had to take. I had my chances to be connected with different men in my life, and it’s not that I didn’t love them, but finally it didn’t work out. I had disappointments, but when I look at it now I see how valuable these experiences were and I feel very lucky to have had what I’ve had.
Real art doesn’t age, because it’s about connecting with an idea. Art is logical. You see it, and you understand the time; it marks the time, it explains what the time is, how people are feeling. It’s not an accident that people do art. It has to do with why. Why are we alive?