High Artist Spotlight: Denise Benitez

Denise Benitez is a visual artist focusing on a variety of mediums ranging from sculpture, collage and assemblage, installation and public art, painting, drawing, graphic design and digital illustrations. She finds herself exploring and combining different materials and mediums in the works she creates in order to best convey the feelings, experiences and stories she portrays in her art.
Born and bred in New York City and of Puerto Rican and Salvadoran descent, Benitez has been making her home in the vibrant city of Sacramento, California since 2008. The influence of growing up in a huge metropolis, and the inspiration of residing in a small yet flourishing city has indeed sparked her creativity and expanded her skill set since moving to the Golden State. The ever-supportive and thriving art community in Sacramento has allowed her art to grow and evolve exponentially! Although her interest in art came at a very young age, Benitez’s formal art training happened later in her life. The move from NYC to Sacramento reignited her desire to reconnect with her artistic educational goals. She currently holds a BFA in Studio Arts from Sacramento State University, as well as, an AA in Art, and AS in Graphic Communications in Graphic Communications from Sacramento City College.
We recently caught up with Denise after High Art 2023 to learn more about her most recent inspirations:

Where do you find your creative inspiration?

Although the world around me provides a bounty of inspiration, I tend to use my own personal experiences and emotions (such as love, loss, pain, grief, etc.) as the true source of my inspiration. I feel that when I get in touch with my own experiences, and express them through my art, then it will allow at least one other person to connect and resonate with my work. It becomes a way to build connections through the human experience.

Why do you do what you do?

I do art because it is the most natural way for me to express myself and my ideas. As a mostly introverted person, art becomes my external voice that allows me to connect with the world around me in a more intimate and authentic way. Without art, I probably would have lost my way a long time ago.

What art/artist do you most identify with?

I tend to identify with abstract art forms whether they are paintings, drawings, or sculpture, especially when they can convey raw emotion. Whether the art is representational or nonrepresentational, abstraction in art makes the relationship between the elements (colors, line, etc.) and the principles of design (tension, balance, etc) even more important. There is a beauty when a whole slew of emotions can be expressed through the use of color, line-quality, texture, space through a variety of mediums.

What themes do you pursue the most?

Life/death, feminine/masculine, sacred/taboo.

What role does an artist have in society?

I believe an artist just is; they are not defined by what society expects them to be. Artists are conduits of the world they live in. They observe and remark on what society is at the moment they create their work. It does not matter whether the artist is visually reflecting on their own internal worlds or the happenings of the world around them; artists are both the most sincere and authentic commentators of the world, or alchemists creating new imagined ones.

What is your artistic outlook on life?

Simply that art is a reflection of life, and life is a reflection of art. They are deeply intertwined. What one creates or experiences in art can influence and shape one's life and vice versa.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

I would tell her to believe in herself more, and be more confident as an artist. I would advise her not to listen to nay-sayers, and not let others' harsh opinions of her work devalue or stunt her creativity.

Do you listen to music while you are creating? If yes, share the song and artist that you listen to while creating art.

Yes, I do! I find music allows me to become more focused while creating. It can serve as a source of inspiration, or gets me to be more in the flow of what I am making. Music — and its many genres — can also provide another layer in the artwork itself, as the instruments, lyrics, and beats can influence the brushstrokes, the color palette, or even the mood of the work. The rhythm of the music being played works in tandem with the art I create.

Some of my go-to songs are: "Here I Stand" by Solar Fake, "Drive" by Assemblage 23, and "Pain" by Boy Harsher.

What's the best thing about being an artist?

Being an artist is such a unique experience. Not only can I think of all kinds of ideas and projects, and give myself the opportunity to see them become reality, but through the process of creating, I can discover new realms of creative possibilities. Above all, I can uncover more about who I am, and be thankful that I am an artist.

What is your dream project?

I have been pretty fortunate to have worked on some cool projects that have been dreams of mine, such as curating art shows, and creating meaningful public artworks and sculpture. Aside from doing more of those, plus doing more commission-based work and solo exhibitions, a huge dream of mine is to open and run an affordable safe-space where artists (especially those that come from low-income neighborhoods, and those artists that haven't had much exposure) would have access to materials, supplies, and equipment, offer low-cost classes, and also have dedicated spaces for artists to exhibit their work. It would also be a place where artists could have opportunities to engage with the community, and work on some cool creative projects. ​