Barton Art.

Provocative Art for me is an art form that provokes the emotions, feelings and thoughts of the viewer. Now the question that would be asked is, isn’t every art form provocative art because every art piece somehow or the other provokes and questions our thoughts, beliefs etc. So in a way, all art becomes provocative art. But what has to be understood is that by the term ‘provocative’, it does not have to be nudity or sexual elements always. This brings me to the American provocative artist and sculptor, Barton Lidice Benes, who passed away on 30th May of this year at the age of 69 due to AIDS.

Barton Lidice Benes- the famous provocative artist and scultpor
Photo by Joan Hall

As mentioned above Barton Lidice Benes was a provocative artist and sculptor who used materials what he called the artifacts of ‘everyday’ life. He entered the art scene during the 80’s with his shredded currency collage art work of Virgin Mary. From shredded pices of currencies and other recycled materials, he went more personal with his art when he was tested HIV positive in 1986. He started working on everyday materials of the epidemic – pills, human cremated remains etc.  His works were controversial and many art galleries were not ready to showcase his works. One of his works called ‘Brenda’ is of 200 AIDS ribbons which were mounted on a wall after being slathered with the paste made from the ashes of his friend Brenda who died of AIDS.

“Brenda” consists of 200 4″ high ribbons, modeled after the iconic red ribbon representing AIDS awareness. But these ribbons are stiff and gray, encrusted with his friend Brenda’s cremains, and mounted in solemn rows on a wall.

He also made a gigantic hour glass which had the ashes of two of his friends who died of AIDS, the art work spreading the message ‘time is running out’.

Hour Glass by Barton Lidice Benes combines the ashes of two of his close friends, James Barden and Noel McBean, who died of AIDS-related causes within a few months of each other in 1995. James and Noel participated in discussions with Benes about the piece before their deaths, after seeing an earlier piece, titled Brenda, which consisted of iconic ribbons coated in Brenda’s ashes. The grey ashes within the over-sized glass timer are surprisingly fine and light coloured, and more shocking, do not seem sufficient for the remains of two men.

Another controversial work was ‘Lethal weapons’ which was made up of 30 vessels that included hypodermic needles, a water pistol, and HIV infected blood of him and others. Both these works were exhibited in the North Dakota Museum.

One of the pieces in the 30 piece artwork ‘Lethal Weapons’

Another piece from Lethal Weapons.

His works, though really bizarre and highly disturbing, its also deeply confronting and emotional.

Experiencing Art

There was a art workshop conducted by Ms. Sujata Dharap in Manipal University, Dubai Campus on 29th April. It was organized by the Interior Designing department in order to help us know more about art and to change our perception about art.

Truth be told, I was pretty much nervous before going for the workshop as it was my first art workshop and we were asked to bring paints and pastels. Paints and I never got along well in the past, so I was a bit tensed as to what we would be asked to do.

Now about the artist, Ms. Sujata Dharap is a very famous artist from India who has done around 22 shows and has designed 150 murals. She is a very simple and a jovial person who explained to us in simple terms what art meant to her and how we should conceive and perceive art in our own ways. Check out her work on her website –

We were given a few exercises which helped in understanding more about shapes, textures and colours. The first exercise given to us was to draw random shapes with the same beginning and ending point and then we moved on to drawing faces and other shapes without lifting the pencils (this was the most interesting exercise in the whole workshop!)

The Random Shapes Exercise!

Doodle Time!

Also we played with pastels where we were asked to draw a landscape and to colour each element in the colour we like and not the original colour, i.e. She asked to colour give any colour to the leaves except green.

Then she gave us the last exercise where we were divided into groups of three and was asked to draw random lines, shapes, strokes etc and to paint and see meaning in it. Since Ms.Dharap believes in painting and seeing rather than seeing and painting. My team partners were my classmate Sneha Wadhwani and my best friend Anzuma Akther (who is just as bad at painting as I am). We were quite confused in the beginning as to what we should draw and how to paint. But then as we continued drawing we started getting ideas and those ideas developed more and helped us give meaning to each shape.

The abstract art piece

Then we put all the paintings together and Boy! what a sight that was! Though all our work was entirely different from each other, it looked like a long painting based on a theme. Check out the pic below!

And the final collage!

The criteria for these paintings were that we were only allowed to use the primary colours, black and white. This was one workshop I would never forgetwhich actually gave me confidence in trying my hand in painting!

Group photo session with artist Sujata Dharap