During our brief visit to NYC I had to the remarkable opportunity to meet with the artist Barton Liddes Benes. I came to know his work through the UND art department and his connection to the North Dakota Museum of Art. While his work is somewhat transitioning, Barton is widely known celebrity relic pieces. Using traditional religious relic motifs, Benes transforms them with our cultures religious-like worship of celebrity. Bits of celebrity trash and other cultural oddities make their way to Barton through a vast network of friends and into his work. The diversity of relics is astounding from Frank Sinatra's fingernail to Madonna's panties, these little bits of ephemera gain importance via their provenance.
Barton has also done significant artwork on AIDS using his own blood in some pieces, failed AIDS medications, and even curing potion from an African healer complete with text for recitation.
While Barton may be taking a break from some of the relic work, he is still prolific in his work. His current work involves making mandalas out of the world currencies and prayer rugs out of varieties of stamps. UND recently completed a prayer rug edition of 27 for Barton...it is beautiful and bright.
If you are not familiar with Barton's work, a great place to start is his book, Curiosa.
This was my second visit to Barton's home and his hospitality is remarkable. I am thankful for the time I had to spend with him and for his willingness to spend some time with a few North Dakotan fans.