MJ Benson (b. 1967) is a landscape artist living and working on the coast of Maine. Her work is anchored by the illusory horizon, and addresses the relationships of the earth, sky and water. She works in bold and expressive gestures and colors, with an emphasis on abstraction rooted by the familiar. She immerses herself in the outdoors, sometimes literally, with her ocean swimming, hiking and fishing. Her previous work as a photographer and her extensive plein air painting practice informs larger work done in her studio. She works with oil, acrylic, watercolor and encaustic paint, as well as incorporating earth pigments and ocean/lake water in her pieces. Her current series of mono prints are direct responses to participating in workshops with the Gulf of Maine Research Institute around rising tides on the Portland waterfront.
She has a BFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and an EdM from Harvard University. She was a juried artist for Maine Audubon’s Brush With Nature Plein Air Auction in 2021 & 2022, and the Cape Elizabeth Land Trust Paint for Preservation in 2016 & 2017. She is a recipient of a Maine Arts Commission Project Grant for Artists, 2022 and recently had a solo show at the Maine State House as part of the Maine Arts Commission Arts In The Capitol program; she is represented by Portland Art Gallery.
“I begin with the horizon, its ever steady line of delineation between the spaces of land, sky, sea. In between are layers and layers of light and color, sprung from my memory but unbound by realism. I use a framework, a few rules around composition or color, but it’s the tension between what I expect and what the painting is telling me that dictates the flow and finish. I work, and wait, until the profound shifting between place and memory stills itself harmoniously.”