Ben Alderman, who is also known as Lin Wen-Ben, is a RMCAD alumnus who graduated with a degree in Fine Arts in 2016. He has now relocated to London, where he got his MA in Experimental Animation at the Royal College of Art. His work has continued to receive broad acclaim, including his piece Regeneration, which was projected onto the Daniels & Fisher Tower on Denver’s 16th St. Mall. In celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we spoke with Wen-Ben about the many multicultural influences that inspire his work.
You may recognize Wen-Ben’s name from his painting currently on display in RMCAD’s Texas building, titled The Martial Artist. Wen-Ben shared that he was inspired by other performance paintings like Paul McCarthy’s piece, Painter. “’I initially started the project as a joke, simply wanting to incorporate Nunchucks into a painting. However, it gradually evolved as I added conceptual layers, contemplating how props used in performances can convey poetic meanings,” shares Wen-Ben. While he was conceptualizing the piece he was enrolled and highly engrossed in an Art History course which led him to consider the “underrepresentation of Women of Abstract Expressionism in older art history books, which often emphasized a masculine, heroic approach to painting. Simultaneously, I pondered the portrayal of Asian men in mainstream media.” As such Wen-Ben used the ‘Asian stereotype’ as a pre-existing image, performing as an “ironically exaggerated, macho Asian brush hero” while painting The Martial Artist.
Wen-Ben told us he was heavily influenced by the Picture Generation, a post-modern photography movement centered around appropriating popular culture and mass media. “When I was at RMCAD, fine art was all about defining your own perspective,” explains Wen-Ben. “A professor named Kelly Dulaney told me to do my own research by looking at several different artists and imitating their style. Eventually, I found my creative process and discovered how to use objects to express my own philosophy.” The common topics that Wen-Ben sees as part of his philosophy are the Asian experience in the Western world, monopolized capitalist societies, environmental concerns, and the invisible emptiness of missing information.
Wen-Ben’s philosophy has taken him far! One of his proudest accomplishments was getting his animated short film, RIP 9-5, accepted into the London Short Film Festival. The experimental short utilizes nostalgic iconography from places like Monopoly, to Windows 95, and Y2K to make important statements about the relationship between the environment and our current economic systems.
Wen-Ben said, “RIP 9-5 draws inspiration from the devastating forest fires that ravaged Colorado. I witnessed the haunting sight of ash descending from the sky while I was at work.” He tells us “RIP 9-5 was my first-year graduate film project, which I had a tight deadline of six weeks to complete.” even still the process was characterized “by a lack of self-doubt or hesitation in my decision-making.” He then went back to dedicate another two months to refine the film further. RIP 9-5 has now been accepted to more than 20 festivals worldwide. Wen-Ben said that going through the festival circuit with his short has given him the chance to “connect with individuals hailing from diverse corners of the globe and witness their unique cinematic creations,” which became a “wellspring of inspiration, fueling my desire to explore and create.” RIP 9-5, will be on display at the upcoming RMCAD alumni show.
When asked what advice he has for new artists, Wen-Ben said: “Make what feels right.” He believes that it is more important to find your personal voice than to please the masses, even if that means ruffling a few feathers. “I try not to please everyone. I feel like when you are trying to please people 100% of the time, you’re not making the stuff that you really want. Sometimes you gotta do what you want. And sometimes it’s okay to get a B,” shared Wen-Ben. As long as you are 100% happy with your art, you’re the most important critic of your work. Because of his steadfast philosophy, Wen-Ben has been able to craft a unique and recognizable voice even across multiple mediums. “Everybody always says my work feels like it’s mine no matter what I make.”
“Art can plant a seed in people’s heads,” Wen-Ben shared. It is your culture, influences, and philosophy behind your art that waters that seed and allows it to grow. But remember, the best art comes not from following a rulebook or impressing others, but instead by expressing yourself. That’s what will take you the farthest. To learn more about Ben Alderman aka Lin Wen-Ben, please visit his site here. If you would like to read even more about additional Fine Arts alumni, please click here.
Many of the quotes in this story have been edited for brevity and clarity by the author, but are meant to retain the significance and purpose of the original speaker.