Bezalel Art Academy was like nothing I had ever experienced before. Gone were the ordered lecture halls I was so used to, and the sweeping and politically correct campus spanning blocks and blocks of urban Philadelphia. My orderly Fine Arts building, with traditional still-life classes and instructional Drawing 101, was also nowhere to be found. Instead, Bezalel was a single very confusing maze of a building (I spent much of my time desperately lost), where students scrawled their creative ideas on the nearest blank white wall because reaching for a piece of paper slowed them down. Fine Arts was purely about ideas, life-like drawings and painstakingly detailed paintings rendered bland and out-of-date. I was not pierced or tattooed enough to fit into the culture, and my American accent in otherwise passable Hebrew always rendered me bright red and gasping in the front of a group of staring, intimidating and beautiful Israelis and a generally bemused professor. “Een-glish, hamudah [cutie]?” they would ask me politely. I was well aware that I was out of my league. And I loved every minute of it.
I met Ben Mires in this sea of talented Israeli twenty-somethings in an inter-department class I had tacked onto my schedule last minute. We had taken a “field trip” to a comic art museum a few hours away from Jerusalem and, desperately lost and emotionally spent from a day trying to navigate the Israeli bus system and maintain my dignity (a difficult feat), I tagged along with him and his friends, hoping they might help me get home. At the end of the day, I texted in my Bezalel exchange-student whatsapp group:
I MADE AN ISRAELI FRIEND. PAUSE FOR APPLAUSE.
People responded with the appropriately excited emojis. I felt validated.
The more I got to know Ben and his group of quirky, artsy friends, the more in awe I became. Ben was not, as I was, in the Fine Arts department, but rather in the Visual Communications program, studying innovative technology and design for marketing and branding. His comics and caricatures were fluid, funny, to the point. His portfolio was diverse. He oozed creativity. Everyone in that class was sweet, interesting, diverse, intelligent, but Ben the most so.
Here is his story.
N: Hi! First off, I hope everything is going well with you and a belated happy new year! Secondly—would you mind being featured in this fabulous magazine, Or? I’m the art editor (shameless self promotion).
*N waits with bated breath, thumbs hovering over the whatsapp screen*
*Ben takes more than five minutes to answer. N suffers pangs of feared rejection, quits Or magazine, drops out of school, becomes a hermit*
*Ben answers. The world rights itself*
* * *
N: First of all, tell me a bit about yourself! Where are you from, and what interests you in art and in life?
B: Hey! First of all, my name is Ben Mires and originally I am from Kibbutz Ein Hanifratz in the north of Israel. I moved to Jerusalem two years ago in order to study Visual Communications at Bezalel. Most recently, I am starting my third out of four years at Bezalel.
I adore books and traveling and hiking, and enjoy drawing and gardening. One of the things that especially interests me is Biomimicry, but unfortunately right now I haven’t had the chance to do almost anything at all with it.
N: What inspires you to create art?
B: In general, I’m inspired by the little things—the experiences that I’ve gone through, interesting day-to-day conversations that I’ve had with people, books that I’ve read. Sometimes, my creations are reactions to news pieces, or reactions to other artists and their works.
N: Can you point to a specific time in your life where you began creating art? Or have you always been creative?
B: Hmm… I guess I’ve always loved to draw, ever since I was a kid, and that really stayed with me until today. When I began studying other kinds of creativity and design, I realized I also found them interesting and pursued that. I’m always seeking new ways to look at creative problems during my studies.
N: Do you think art is for the artist, or the audience?
B: In my work, I think it always has to be both, and it is a precarious balance. I try to communicate whatever is running through my head to the outside, but it always has to be accessible. A lot of times in my studies, we are assigned a task and each student has to carry it out in his or her own way. My goal is to successfully communicate my internal thoughts to the external world creatively and articulately. Generally, what guides me and excites me is my unique reaction to the assignment that I was given. I think we’ve spoken a bit about this already, but we in the Visual Communications department are creators that work on command, whether it’s for a company or an instructor. We have to react to the tasks that we are given, and our designs have to both be aesthetic and understandable to the general public. I think it’s important to keep in mind that your design is “out there,” not just hanging in a gallery in the Academy, and therefore the reaction of the public is critical. But with that, when I am creating for myself, I try to leave the audience out of it and focus on putting what is in my head onto paper.
N: What do you do when you’re not in the studio?
B: Haha, that’s a hard question. Because I’m a really focused and one track person, there’s not really a moment in the semester that I’m not either working or thinking about working. Therefore even when I’m not in the studio, I guess I’m basically still in the studio if that makes sense.
N: Is there a specific artist that inspires you?
B: Lately it’s the work of Julian Munsetta. That work is among the coolest I’ve seen. His mix of styles is absolutely genius in my opinion.
N: Tell me a bit about your time at Bezalel. Would you recommend your program?
B: The studies at Bezalel are really intense, although people say that the third year is a little lighter—I hope they’re right. The workload is really hard, lots of projects and assignments and the professors’ expectations are incredibly high. The people surrounding you are all really talented, and there’s a positive energy of creativity. On the other hand, there’s not really any opportunity to engage in creative pursuits outside the Academy because of the workload. To be honest, there’s not really time to engage in any other aspects of life because of that workload.
But with all that, there are really positive aspects. I feel like I’ve grown a lot as a creator since my first year. Visual Communications is one of the biggest departments here at Bezalel, and the professors are talented. With all that, would I recommend Bezalel? Absolutely.
Check out samples of Ben’s work below, or visit his website!
Poor Father אבא עני
Welcome ברוך הבא
My Rain Rages גשמי זעף
Hebrew text: Year 1, Year 2, Year 3, Year 4
Time Flies הזמן עובר מהר
Visual Research מחקר חזותי
Nekuda Logo for Hagasha נקודה – לוגו להגשה
Hebrew text: Today I will meet with each of you separately
Silence of the Lambs שתיקת הכבשים
Hebrew text: Oh! In the end the work is just how I like it
Licking Asses מלקק תחתים