Artist Ian Bennett is a creative juggernaut. He accomplishes more in a day than most people do in a week. Ian’s superhuman work ethic is the backbone of his inventive life, but it isn’t a matter of will. He has no choice.
Due to a surplus of energy, Ian can’t stop. He is continuously driven to create, build, innovate, and engineer. But he wasn’t born this way.
On February 2nd, 2006, on a residential construction job, Ian moved an aluminum latter and nicked a temporary underground electrical line. Power surged through his nervous system, permanently altering the course of his life. His body successfully conducted the voltage, but the electricity changed the way Ian’s body channeled energy, and he became a super-charged hyper-creator.
Now, when Ian enters a room the vibrational frequency rises. His intensity pervades the space and forces those around him to rise up and get busy. Ian is a courteous and compassionate human being, but his presence is a call to action. It’s as if he is saying, “Hello friends. Let’s get to work”.
When we met for an interview at his live-work space, I witnessed firsthand the creative intellect and ultra-productivity that are Ian’s trademark characteristics. Over the course of a day, I pieced together the information I needed to draft a coherent narrative, but mostly I just tried to keep up with Ian as he ran around his space like a mad scientist.
I squeezed in a question whenever the opportunity presented itself, and Ian answered as he moved onto the next task. His mind was focused on the project at hand, but he never seemed distracted by my interjections into his work. On the contrary, he lit up with enthusiasm and gave me passionate responses.
Ian’s thoughts are that of a revolutionary. He is concerned with the status-quo and neutralizing the evil of the ruling class. When talking about the practical things that people can do to empower themselves, he spoke of obtaining adequate nutrition, recommending that individuals get produce and meat from community supported agriculture sources (CSA’s) instead of going to the supermarket and buying nutrient deprived food.
Like many artists, Ian Bennett is invested in the idea of autonomy. In an age where people outsource their needs, self-sufficiency is freedom. But the goal isn’t to escape society and live in the mountains. The goal is to participate in a community of conscious individuals, supporting one another’s interests as well as the interests of the community.
For decades, those searching for a better way to live have found music and art festivals essential to the forming of such a community. But as festivals get larger they become increasingly capitalistic.
Ian has accomplished much as a painter and sculptor in the private festival circuit, but he is wary of the corporate encroachment that is plaguing festivals nationwide. He thinks that festivals exceeding 3,000 people are susceptible to corporate influence and are not a community building opportunity like smaller festivals.
Instead of focusing on the mainstream festival scene, Ian uses his abundance of energy to support the Chicago art community, acting as a beacon for young artists and would-be engineers. He welcomes trustworthy people into his workspace and shares his skills and knowledge in exchange for a little help on his current project.
When he isn’t building, designing, and engineering, Ian paints live at local events and private festivals. His work is instantly recognizable, a combination of acrylic and spray paint, commonly layered on wood. His vibrant color choices and unique stencil patterns accent the layers to create a tidal wave of imagery.
Ian’s sculpture is equally psychedelic, merging steampunk influences with naturalism. Often using reclaimed material and majestic hardwood, Ian incorporates conflicting elements to form an aesthetic that feels other-worldly.
His ability to construct this other-worldliness extends beyond painting and sculpture. His website, anodedesign.com, is a collection of completed furniture and design projects that range from chandeliers, jewelry, large scale art installations and restaurant interiors.
But Ian Bennett’s primary focus is his 14,000 square foot work-live space, nicknamed HQ, which he is currently renovating. When he bought the building three years ago it was collapsing in on itself. With the fervor of ten men, Ian repaired the structure and built out the interior. Using mostly reclaimed material, he constructed multiple loft spaces and an impressive workshop.
It is far from finished, but the progress is remarkable, considering that Ian has done almost all the work single-handedly. But that’s just Ian’s style. He is so high energy and so highly skilled that he rarely needs assistance.
And when he does need help, there is almost always someone nearby to lend a hand. Ian’s energy attracts high-frequency artists and craftsmen with good intentions. They all work together to accomplish each other’s goals. Spending a day at Ian’s space is a veritable how-to manual for living a creative, community oriented life.
By Ian’s side is his wife Renee; a selfless, nurturing, and rather hilarious lady that is truly Ian’s equal. They live in total harmony with one another, laughing and loving, working in unison to build their dream life.
And his housemates radiate goodness, cracking jokes and sharing personal stories as they float in and out of the common area, seemingly infected with Ian’s high-frequency energy.
Ian’s world is a microcosm of an enlightened society where patrons build things together and share information freely while manifesting a reality that supports hope and relinquishes fear, a place where human beings play together in the grand pursuit of actualizing their dreams.
His world shines brighter than the defeatist, anxiety stricken, toil-for-dollars world that most people live in, but it’s not a fantasy realm. It’s an example of what happens when someone wakes up and gets to work. But the key to Ian’s luminescent life isn’t just hard work and creativity, and no, it’s not electricity either.
The key is generosity.
Talking about his life, all that he has created and the lives he has affected, Ian said, “I guess that’s what you do when you have too much energy. You give it away.”
All photos courtesy of Phillip Solomonson of Philamonjaro Studio.
Ian Bennett is our second feature in a series of artists that Phillip Solomonson has documented and works with. You can find all of Phil’s work on his website.