Ingenious. Passionate. Dedicated. Humble. These are all words which have been used to describe Benny Yang ’21, a technically and conceptually gifted contributor of the Visual Arts Program at Deerfield.
Yang’s immersion in visual art began at the age of three, when he started taking private art classes to improve his techniques while developing a fascination for art itself. “Art for me is a way to express what I’m thinking because a lot of times it comes from intuition,” explained Yang. “When I have an idea or image in mind, I write it down in my notepad and turn that into a piece of art.”
Yang’s focus later shifted from skills based training to prioritize the creative and conceptual meaning behind pieces. Entering Deerfield with a strong technical background, he also engaged in classes and summer art programs which challenged him to explore a combination of different art mediums.
“Anyone can develop skills with continuous practice,” emphasized Yang. “However, it is the idea behind individual pieces that makes each artist different and unique.”
Art classes at Deerfield have exposed Yang to different ways of approaching art and have enriched his skill set and experience as an artist, allowing him to develop his own unique style. One of his notable projects from last summer includes “The United States of Achromatism.” In this photoshop work, he explored the idea of race by using 100 portraits of the most influential people in the U.S. including those with religious, political, educational, and economic power. Yang then stacked the images on top of each other and played with the composition.
“After completing this piece, I was surprised to discover that everyone looked very similar, which makes you wonder how social and political power is distributed within the U.S,” commented Yang.
More recently, however, Yang dove into liminal spaces, studying structures and buildings with the absence of human life rather than presence. In other words, he explored the relationship between human evolution and the everlasting structures humans create.
For this piece, Yang overlayed six pieces of translucent paper on top of each other, each page containing the same charcoal drawn structure, creating different depictions of human figures. After overlaying the pages, the structure could be very clearly seen; however, the people merged together to become blurry This comparison depicted “how the existence of people at a specific location is only temporary and very miniscule, but the structures and buildings we create will remain for a long time,” as described by Yang.
Natasha Leong ’21, a friend of Yang and a fellow artist, commented on hus work, saying, “[Yang] is the smartest person I know, especially when it comes to art. I’ve always thought of him as an art prodigy, but he is also a genius conceptually. [Yang] largely contributes to the program with his creativity and is also technically very gifted, pushing all of us to improve in his presence.”
Mercedes Taylor, Visual Arts Teacher and advisor to Yang, also mentioned that Yang is very open to the feedback of others, always seeking moments to challenge his own thinking process to improve his product which has distinguished him in the Visual Arts program.
In addition to his immense dedication to his pieces, Yang remains driven to helping his peers by providing both compliments and constructive criticism, offering alternative approaches to different projects.
“[Yang] sometimes will just come up to my table, not say a word, and start moving pieces in my collage around,” recalled Leong. “In doing so, he helps me see the piece in ways I didn’t think of before.”
An evolving artist, Yang’s inspiration has come from different professionals over the years as the conceptual meaning behind his pieces change. One example includes Alberto Giacommetti whom Yang looks up to for his unique depiction of human figures. Other artists include Daniel Arsham, Takashi Murakami, and Salvador Dali whose dreamlike work intrigues Yang.
“[Yang] is not afraid to be different and embraces the uniqueness of his ideas,” remarked Leong. “The more comfortable [Yang] has become with his own technical abilities, the more he has been able to think and dedicate time to the conceptual ideas of his pieces which has allowed his creativity to flourish.”
Another aspect of Yang’s creative process that constantly changes is the art mediums he chooses to use. Yang identified charcoal as his favorite, due to its versatility and his ability to create unique textures and tones with one single material.
Discussing his love for art, Yang shared, “I think this is really a privilege that I have to be able to turn an image in my mind into a tangible thing that I can look at. That’s the part of art I truly enjoy, visualizing a piece in my mind and bringing it to life.”
In the future, Yang is determined to remain involved in the art world and will be choosing art as one of his college majors while attending Columbia University.
“I’ve heard from my friends at Columbia about the University’s amazing professors who are also practicing artists,” Yang explained. “While developing my unique artistic practice, I am hoping to connect with these professors and find mentorship in building my own path towards the art world.”
Regardless of the professional field Yang chooses, however, his contributions to the Deerfield Visual Art Program will forever remain valued and inspire generations of Deerfield artists to come.