An Interview with Featured Artist Danielle Benvenuto
By Kristin LaFollette
“I explore the beauty of the body and celebrate it as a gift to be honored. I think our bodies are the route to higher realms and overall, our general happiness.”
Your featured portfolio shows two different styles of artwork. Talk about these two styles. Do you see the five pieces in this portfolio as being connected?
I would say they are connected in the sense that they are manifesting different sides of the same coin. In the Body Seeks series, I explore the beauty of the body and celebrate it as a gift to be honored. I think our bodies are the route to higher realms and overall, our general happiness. If we make contact and move deeper into our sensuality and allow pleasure, we can tap more fully into our life force energy—that which created all of existence. I am writing quite a bit now on this topic and sexuality in general.
The circle paintings and soul portraits are more an expression of humans as energetic beings, as colorful and dynamic. The circle for me is an expression of life (the geometry of it, that is). In general, I like working with geometric shapes, as one can see in both series. The Body Seeks series is more of a grid where body parts are emerging, wanting to be expressed and recognized, but also showing the body as energy moving into form. We are both particles and waves if we look at existence on a quantum level.
You mention your work “intends to create a space where we can explore our aliveness, daring us to get curious about what moves and blocks us from our own unique self-expression.” How do you see this coming through in the works in your featured portfolio?
My Body Seeks series intends to get people curious about their body parts, to sense that each one is its own universe with stories to tell. If we are disconnected from our bodies, we are disconnected from ourselves. The body, in my opinion, is a way into oneself and gives us important information about what we want to express, whether that be giving voice to something creatively or telling one’s truth to another human being. The soul portraits, which I describe more below, also have this aim though via a different route.
You also note that your work may encourage a “sensory experience which takes one more fully into the richness of their body.” Say more about this.
I think this is most evident in the Body Seeks series, especially as a whole. One can’t help but make contact with one’s body. What I found interesting about this series was a gallerist’s remarks about what he saw while observing people look at this work. He noticed women looking for quite a long time and with intention whereas men seemed to pass through rather quickly, on occasion showing some discomfort.
Efrén’s Sky is referred to as a “soul painting.” Tell us more about this painting, the “soul painting” series, and how you capture an energetic field rather than a physical form.
The circles are an expression of energy and life force (as I mentioned earlier), so while I am painting a soul portrait, I am channeling the individual’s energy as I would in an energy healing session or tarot card reading (“Life sessions” are what I call them—you can find more about these on my Substack blog, How Lost Can You Get?). I allow that to move me, showing me which colors to use. The patterns emerge naturally as I work, which creates a picture on canvas of an energy field (my interpretation of one, of course). While painting, I receive messages for the person about their soul path, what might be blocking them, and what to keep doing to be their most expressed version of themselves. I send a one-page letter with these messages along with the painting. Efrèn’s Sky was my first soul portrait.
You are also a writer and have some work up on your site (i.e., articles, interviews). What topics do you write about? How do you see your work as an artist and writer intersecting?
In general, I write about what is moving through me and what I need to digest more fully about myself. Recently, I’ve been writing a lot about sexuality and what it means to be a sexual being. In my latest article, which will be released in the coming weeks, I talk about how, for most people, sexual pleasure comes not simply from orgasming. Rather, I discuss how meaningful connection seems to be the thing that, when found, gives us a lasting kind of pleasure that can surpass orgasmic sex. I am, in other words, deconstructing traditional notions of sex and opening it up to include other possibilities. I also talk a lot about shame and how to work through that.
My work as an artist and writer are deeply connected, but this is perhaps most evident in my street art. While writing, I will sometimes come up with a street art idea, and these ideas are typically focused on asking questions and making statements that hopefully get people to think outside the box (e.g., “What’s wrong with pain?”, “Is working hard smart?”, “Your success story bores me”).
You used to work as a psychotherapist. How did you transition to being a fulltime writer and artist? How does your experience as a psychotherapist influence the work you do now?
It was smooth in a sense, but also a process which is still unfolding. I began painting first and gave birth to the soul portraits and circle paintings, which became quite popular. The soul portraits call on my work as an energy healer and my street art (which came about last year), and one could say my street art is also influenced by my work as a psychotherapist. From a psychotherapeutic perspective, the best intervention is a good question. Currently, I am focusing more on my writing and poetry manuscript after having put it aside for a couple years. I have realized writing poems is where I often come alive the most. It feels as if I am painting with words.
You are originally from New York but now live in Berlin, Germany. How did you come to live in Germany? What is it like to be an artist in Berlin?
Coming to Berlin was purely intuitive. I had decided to leave both my career and NYC after having spent fifteen years there. When I asked myself, “Where to next?”, I had a very strong feeling about Berlin (though, at the time, I had no clue I would give birth to a new life as an artist). It was after a year in Berlin that I realized art was my next calling, and this was a huge surprise to me as I had never considered that before. Yet, here I am six years later, working as an artist.
Berlin is one of the best places to be an artist, in my opinion. I have an incredible community here, people who inspire me as humans and as artists. In general, Berlin is supportive of art and offers many opportunities for grants and funding. I had a love affair with NYC and now I can most definitely say I am in another one with Berlin.