The wax artist takes over the walls of Lulu’s
Pretentious he’s not. Ask 35-year-old artist Ben Hecht what his artist statement is, or what’s the point of his work, or some other abstract artist question, and he might just shrug his shoulders, smile, and say, “I don’t know.” And that is incredibly refreshing. He’s not caught up in the overly analyzed and thoroughly confusing verbiage that some artists use to explain their work, and hence, one can relate to him—and understand him. Hecht brings new light and a fresh perspective to a generation of young artists. “I make it (art) intentionally ambiguous,” Hecht says.
Hecht’s work is currently on display at Lulu Carpenter’s at the Octagon, the always-busy coffee shop and spin-off of the original Lulu’s, located at the corner of Front and Cooper streets. Curated by staff from the Museum of Art & History, Hecht was contacted a year ago regarding hanging his work there—and the show is, by far, quite a sight.
Two collections of his work hang on Lulu’s walls. One section features ocean waves and the other section is the opposite—a group of people-based artwork called “The Messengers.” The series features images of things like a man walking on a tightrope, or a person playing a drum—yet these images aren’t simple, they’re layered and complex, created from found images that are put together and scanned, then printed on a large scale format, and then encaustic (bees) wax is layered over it, often with color. It’s a complicated process that can take months to create a single piece, but the results are highly original.
Hecht admits that working in encaustic wax is a much more rare medium than, say, watercolor. “It’s from 800 B.C.,” he says. “It’s the oldest form of painting besides petroglyphs.”
One example of his work is the 44-inch by 44-inch piece, “Cosmic Dancer,” featuring the image of a delicate woman dancing through the sky, skimming the ocean, with dragonflies buzzing around her.
And while Hecht might say, “Like it or hate it; it’s not colorful, and it’s missing some things—no flowers or anything like that,” his work possesses a mysterious and ambiguous quality, where the interpretation is left up to the viewer.
In addition to Hecht’s work as a visual artist, he also runs a children’s after-school art program in the Sash Mill area of downtown Santa Cruz. The Seven Directions Institute of Art and Science (Hecht’s art school for kids) has been open for seven years and offers myriad lessons for children to learn various artistic mediums. The school is home to 80 different animals—birds, reptiles, fish—that, of course, are all caged, and it provides inspiration to children when they create art. And on top of that, Hecht offers a series of workshops and even art birthday parties through Seven Directions.
As for those ‘seven directions,’ the final one will leave you guessing—to start with, there’s north, south, east, west, above and below. But the final direction? Within. “In artwork, you have this opportunity to find a path to yourself,” Hecht says.
Ben Hecht’s artwork will be on display until Feb. 22 at Lulu Carpenter’s at the Octagon, at the corner of Front and Cooper streets in downtown Santa Cruz. To learn more about Hecht, visit benhecht.com, waxwaves.com, or sevendirections.org.