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Meet Maura Bendett

Today we’d like to introduce you to Maura Bendett.

So, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
What I think about today while making my art is that we don’t know what we don’t know, and very little of what we think matters actually does.

As a child, I loved sewing, making “stuff”, and all arts and crafts. I also spent hours observing insects. At about age ten, I was given “The Audubon Nature Encyclopedia”, a young adult encyclopedia set of twelve books, which I read and reread cover to cover. I also read “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson. These books had a huge influence on me.

When I started college (UCSD), I didn’t intend to major in art, but I did take a painting class. When I walked into the painting studio (an old and damp Quonset building in the eucalyptus groves), I fell in love with the smell of oil paint and turpentine, and I was hooked.

I transferred to UCLA a year later because, at the time, it was said to be the best UC campus for art majors. It was the 1980’s. Chris Burden had just been made chair of a new area in the Art Department called “New Forms and Concepts”. Paul McCarthy, Don Suggs, and William Brice were among my professors. After I received my BFA, I stayed for graduate school.

After grad school, I lost interest in the abstract expressionist style paintings I had been exploring. However, I loved the idea of creating color with other materials besides paint and made a body of work with transparent colored plexiglass, canvas, stretcher bars, rubber, dirt, and wood. With this work, I had my first solo show.

After this, I retreated for a few years and intentionally made art knowing that I didn’t care if I ever showed it. During this time, I explored, among other things, how my early life experiences had influenced my art. I needed to be free to try anything and everything in order to get to the bottom of what my art was actually about.

Slowly my work developed into something that felt authentic to me. Throughout this period, I made large paintings with dried insects embedded in encaustic. I also created huge charcoal drawings of roller coasters on rice paper that were purposely fragile and battered, as well as abstract painting/collages of Martian insect creatures. I was in my early 30’s and produced several bodies of art that, to this day, I’ve never shown. I think I had one studio visit during those years.

As my work progressed, I indulged in my love of pre-Raphaelite art, as well as the esoteric art nouveau illustrator Kay Nielsen, and I also researched the futuristic plant forms that had been created for the fantasy planets on the set of the original Star Trek. Additionally, a flower painting by Odilon Redon (among other things) inspired me to start painting abstract flower shapes, which evolved into small 3-d sculptures made of wire, paper, and acrylic.

Flowers! It was especially thrilling and risky to create 3-d flower imagery even though, at the time, it seemed that referencing flowers was super uncool, too feminine, and too beautiful. I had to do it anyway. It felt like a natural path to explore because making 3-d objects was more satisfying to me than painting the same. Slowly the flower sculptures grew in size, becoming quite large and complex. I like to refer to them as wall sculptures.

Since then, even though my art has taken many twists and turns, the above-referenced wall sculptures are the foundation of the work that I continue to make to this day.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Definitely not a smooth road.

Postgrad school, I experienced some minor success with my first solo show and galley representation. However, when this fell apart, so did my mental state.

Consequently, this experience prompted me to question why I’d decided to become an artist, and if I wanted to continue to make art. It took a few years of therapy, life experience, and several bodies of work to pull myself through.

Cut to 15 years later, after many more solo and group shows, and at the peak, in 2007, I couldn’t sustain it anymore. I had no tools to deal with professional success, I needed a break, my gallery dropped me, and I sunk into a depression which lasted until a few years ago.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I’m known for my 3-d wall sculptures that look like twisty vines and plant forms, possibly from another planet.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
Staring at and studying insects and tidepools.

Contact Info:

  • Address: LSH Co Lab
    778 N. Virgil Avenue
    Los Angeles. CA. 90029
  • Phone: 213-465-5864
  • Email: rory@lshcolab.com
  • Instagram: maura_bendett


Image Credit:

Joshua White Photography; Ruben Diaz Photography

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