From east to west and home again

Artist Charles Beneke '90 visits Kenyon

Mesaros Visiting Artist Charles Beneke '90 is into food and the rituals of eating. "I love food, eating, cooking, music, candlelight, and the whole production," he told a rapt audience during his campus visit in February. "It makes sense to me to incorporate these images into my work."

Beneke's artistic sensibility allows him to take everyday objects, such as a table setting, medical x-rays, or endoscopic photos of the digestive tract, and from them create drawings, prints, and woodcuts. Sometimes he adds sensuous fabrics to the mix.

"I enjoy sewing very much," he says. "I took a fibers class, and I was the only man among eighteen women. My final project was a coat in which the interior is a muscle map. The coat over the top is rice paper with polyurethane."

A studio art and psychology double major at Kenyon, Beneke began his career in New York City, where he married his Kenyon sweetheart, Sarah Watts '90, in 1992. He worked in graphic design and book-cover design, and as a freelance art director, before earning an M.F.A. in printmaking and mixed media at the University of Connecticut. In 1997, he joined the art faculty of the University of Wyoming in Laramie, where the expansive landscape added another dimension to his work. "It's only green for about two weeks in June," he explained. "You feel somehow smaller after living there. There are ruts in the prairie that are one hundred years old and no trees for one hundred miles." It was here that he created "He Swallowed," an installation exhibit made from pieces of sausage casing stuffed with tumbleweed.

Beneke took to Wyoming the nurturing attitude from which he benefited during his student days. "I want my students to know I care about them as much as my professors at Kenyon cared for me and my peers," he says.

With the birth of his son, Caleb, five, and his daughter, Grace, three, Beneke and his wife began to long for a return to the east where they could be closer to family members in New York and Virginia.

Last year, Beneke joined the faculty of the University of Akron, a move that puts him not only closer to family but closer to Kenyon as well.

The Mesaros Art Fund was established in 1993 thorough a gift from physicians Paul and Laura Mesaros. The annual income from the fund is used to enhance the College's art program with activities ranging from artists in residency and guest lectures, to visiting artists and special exhibitions.