As the associate director of the Robert Kidd Gallery (Birmingham) and an alumnus of CCS, Ben Kiehl is well connected to the local art community. The photorealist painter has developed a vision for Detroit: to garner respect for local artists currently working in Detroit, and to encourage artists who have the left the city to return and share their work.
"Having the chance to work with such outstanding art at the gallery is great - but that's a given," said Kiehl. "I'm also learning the workings and philosophy of a gallery, as well as developing the ability to maintain the artists' creative integrity and still move their work. The experience I'm gaining here is invaluable to me as an artist."
As associate director, Kiehl is responsible for much of the work involving the physical plan and promotion of the gallery. He determines which work is shown and approves the look of the exhibitions. He also creates promotional materials that are used in a number of publications including nationally recognized Art in America.
Another major component of Kiehl's work includes dealing with artists, designers and architects, in addition to the daily influx of pedestrian traffic.
"I am in a position to provide guidance to clients to help foster a relationship with contemporary art; sometimes it's bridging the gap that can be most challenging," Kiehl explained. "When working with clients, I try to open their minds as well as meet their personal tastes."
In addition to his career at the gallery, Kiehl continues to work as an artist, finding his voice in photorealist painting.
"From a distance the paintings and drawings can appear as photographs, sometimes as blank pieces of paper attached to the wall or even spray painted graffiti," he explained. "I prefer to use traditional techniques, usually graphite or oil with a brush. It requires meticulous technique to achieve the effect. I enjoy the interesting dichotomy of my work - I draw from materials that in reality could be created in a second's time, but require weeks and sometimes months to produce as works of art. There is elegance in condensing complex systems. It is this kind of poignant quiet that I am drawn to."
Although Kiehl excelled at drawing at a young age, it wasn't until he was a student at CCS that he started networking with the major players in the local art scene. The knowledge he gained from instructors, such as Joe Bernard, Nancy Mitter, Chido Johnson, and Robert Schefman combined with the talents of his classmates continue to inspire him today.
"My professors were all working artists who live and show their art locally," said Kiehl. "They were open to sharing their experiences, and it strengthened my confidence professionally to be included in some of the same shows as them."
Recently, the artist acquired a loft in Eastern Market that serves as a home, studio, and venue for openings and shows. His appreciation for high-end mid-century furniture is apparent in its design.
"There's a huge chunk of local talent thriving in other cities like New York and Chicago,"said Kiehl. "The loft provides an ideal location to serve as visiting space for guest artists and a place to show their work. I'm proud of the talent coming out of Detroit and would like to see the city garner the respect it deserves."
- Graduation Year: 2005
- Major: Fine Arts
- Employer: Robert Kidd Gallery
- Title: Associate Director
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