Bobbi Bennett is a California based fine arts photographer. Her work is in permanent collection in museums nationally, and she has been an exhibiting artist internationally for over 25 years. Bennett has received numerous awards, including the International Exposure Award for her “Fallen Angels” which was displayed in the Louvre, Paris, France.
Background and Education
Bobbi Bennett was born in 1966, from Monterey, California; however, she grew up on the East Coast, and then received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1988 at the Moore College of Art and Design in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After college and exhibiting in Philadelphia for 2 years, she moved to Santa Barbara , and has since then remained a Southern California resident.
Bennett makes large sets either on location or in the studio, using twigs, branches and other natural props, and creates large nest-type structures for her photography. She shoot with a large format film camera. Everything is created through props and set up without computer manipulation (except for her “trees” series). Her interior studio sets are made with paint, plaster, wallpaper paste, or as she put it, “anything I can get my hands on.” For much of her work, including her “Monsters” and “Angels” series, she shoots through glass, and uses multiple exposures to create a “layered” effect.
Bennett considers herself a thematic photographer. Her themes include Angels, Native Americans, Landscape, Superheroes, and Various Goddess Icons.She works on each theme anywhere from 2-6 years. Each series includes approximately 30-50 large color photographs.
Bennett’s “Angels” series has perhaps garnered the most attention from critics. The complex posing of human models in homage to figures in Greek and Christian mythology again explore the possibilities of human souls. The photographs are intensely beautiful, with naked figures poised, reaching, curling into each other, feathered wings,aloft. ….. And yet, they are also crouched, hidden, turned away from our view. They ask, “What is divine?” “What is human?” Her “Fallen Angels” from this series won the prestigious International Exposure prize and was displayed in the Louvre, Paris, France.
An earlier series, her “Superheroes” collection features photographs of superheroes and icons, such as Wonderwoman, Superman, and the Dukes of Hazzard, using costumed models in famous poses which simultaneously recreate such icons and creates a sense of the “unheimlich,” both the familiar (Wonderwoman!) and yet unfamiliar (Not Linda Carter!). The brightly colored, often intensely close up photographs, seem to both reify and question the idea that anyone can become a super/hero, a common theme in comic books and television series.
FINE ART PHOTOGRAPHER BIOGRAPHY
The Superheroes collection was created at about the same time as her “Monster” series, whose use of human figures that are nearly obscured from view, force the reader to confront both disturbing images, and the complex emotions that arise from such confrontation.
Her “Self-Portrait” from this series echoes the distorted despair of Munch’s “The Scream,” in which the face of the humanoid figure is twisted in psychic and physical pain, the mouth blocked from releasing any cry of despair. The Superhero and Monster series can be seen as complementary answers to the question: “What is it to be human?” The fine line between hero and monster suggests that one can be both hero and monster, as surely as do comic books themselves.
Her two most recent series, “Goddesses,” and “Trees,” are once again, apparently different themes, and yet are intricately entwined. The Goddesses each represent a different element of womanhood, capturing each element’s essence through the use of color. Thus, the Passion Goddess central female figure is surrounded by layers of intense reds from which her face bursts in ecstasy. The Peace Goddess’s cascading blues form a woman created by, and herself creating, a waterfall. The Love Goddess stands in swirling pale greens and golds, hair crowned with twigs, eyes downcast in a Madonna-like pose.
The “Trees” series at first seems entirely unconnected. Stands of aspens in Gold, Green, and White tremble before us, reflecting the passing seasons. They are almost abstract; the viewer must look closely to see that they are “trees.” Sycamore and Eucalyptus Roots are photographed in stark white and black, so highly glossed as to become hyper-real; they are trees stripped down to their essence, but rendered fantastical. And yet, these two series are connected. The link between Goddesses and Trees reaches far back into Greek mythology, perhaps most famously in the story of the goddess Daphne who, fleeing Apollo’s desire, is turned into a laurel tree. The Goddesses at once comment on female power and female vulnerability; the trees hint at feminine fragility and entrapment by men. The trees series also signalled a departure in technique. Here, Bennett uses digital photography as a medium instead of a replacement for film because, as she says, “I feel they are entirely two different mediums, so I decided to use trees as my subject because they are natural and organic. I take out the background and print and mount with epoxy resin...giving the pieces both an organic and contemporary feel.”
Throughout her various thematic series,Bennett works within a common frame. She asks, “What is it to be human? What does it mean to live in this world?” Her photographs explore the possible answers to these questions, but it is the exploration that is highlighted in her work. Bennett’s work insists that we continue to see, rather than promising that we will find.