Blow up 1 is part of a series of abstractions that artist Sadie Benning painted based on often elaborate digital manipulations of photographs. Benning begins by bringing up an image on an iPhone screen, zooming in and out until arriving at a detail that makes sense compositionally on its own. Based on this selection, the artist then cuts corresponding forms from particle board, covers these with brightly hued resins, and finally fits the pieces back together, almost like a puzzle. “People often look at the surfaces of my work and have trouble knowing what exactly it is,” Benning has recounted. “Is it leather, is it ceramic? Is it a sculpture or a drawing or a painting? . . . the indeterminacy of the medium itself is really important to me.”
Benning initially honed a sense of composition and image-editing skills as a filmmaker, starting with a Fisher-Price PixelVision video camera received for Christmas. Although the device was marketed as a diary-esque toy for teenagers under the slogan “You’ve always been heard, but now you can be seen,” Benning used it to create lo-fi videos that investigate issues of identity by combining fragments of found home movies with imagery of toys and other objects, which are interwoven with clips of the artist both confronting and confessing to the camera. Much in the way Benning made the PixelVision camera a tool for artmaking—something it was never designed to be—the artist is similarly interested in utilizing the smart phone as a creative device.