What happens when an artist supports his art habit by waiting tables? If that artist is Ben Bruzga, he sees the used guest checks at Elmo's Diner in Durham, North Carolina as a free source of paper, and the written orders as inspiration. Or sometimes just something to be worked into the imagery. Or buried in the colored squiggles. Looking at the painted beer bottles and little wood scraps that are hand drawn business cards, I'd say that Ben sees potential art surfaces in all kinds of cast off things.
"I am a natural born draw-er," he tells me, and focused on painting at Tyler College of Art of Temple University in Philadelphia. There, he was inspired by art over a large range of history, from Northern Renaissance altars to Modern Day television cartoons, by the gritty aesthetics of the city of Philadelphia, by his classmates, and by his professors, most of whom were themselves practicing and showing artists in Philadelphia and New York. You can see that mix of classical and avant garde in the clever visual quotes from famous paintings by Manet, VanGogh and others.
Ben started selling at Saturday Market last year, after deciding to move to the west from North Carolina and ending up in Eugene. His booth first caught my eye because it changed almost every week. The booth elements were the same, but they got configured in all kinds of ways depending on the space avialable. Why? "I guess I just like to work really hard," he tells me. He also changed up his product line as he learned what his customers wanted. At first, lots of "Bear Bottles" and "Bee Bottles," now mostly prints. He points out that the booth is made in classic post and beam construction, so the elements can be easily adjusted. It's definitely one of the most interesting structures on the Park Blocks. He tells me that later this year he plans on bringing a 10' tall metal altar piece he's been working on as a one day installation piece. I can't wait!
Check out his website at stupidfreshart.com for more art and details, and check out his booth on just about any Saturday. Check with the Info Booth for location, as he moves around week to week.