Young People Have it Hard

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graduate in art education, visual artist
Roberta Bennett exhibits recent works on
paper at a new art venue in town, the
Urbana-Champaign Independent Media
Center. The IMC is located over at what
used to be the old downtown Urbana Post
Office next to Lincoln Square Mall. The
prolific 22 year-old Bennett has provided a
Boneyard Arts Festival/Artists Against
AIDS/Ebert Fest/Everybody’s Senior Show
Prequel being the first flower to bloom this
spring with a constellation of cluttered,
heart wrenching “poems” and odd collections
in a classic art school space. Folks at
the IMC have been sprucing up the large
space in recent weeks and the place is
beginning to look not-half-bad. Inheriting
a 1914 historic building, and the utility
bills that go with it, the IMC has managed
to flourish when neighboring stalwarts, the
Lincoln Hotel (Jumer’s) and the granddaddy
of taverns, The Embassy, are closing
shop in these “hard economic times”. The
IMC may be trafficking in the most important
commodity there is left: free expression.
It’s hard to imagine the first amendment
won’t be needed in the tough nearfuture
and the IMC is poised to meet a
growing need.
Certainly, the IMC’s glossy black floor is
an appropriate lake for Bennett’s dark, latenight-
kitchen-table musings to float over.
Bennett takes us through an automated,
psychedelic trip through a broken-hearted,
cynical mind. All the works average about
the size of a sheet of notebook paper, and all
are done in a haphazard, deceptively childish
craftsmanship. Like pages from a drunken
sketchbook, Bennett allows us to see
what she is thinking, and the subject matter
seems to be rooted in getting screwed.
Bennett grew up “Girl” in the post-femminist
late-20th century, and her sly wit
can’t help but notice that everybody is out
to screw her. If it’s not the corporations
ruining the environment so she can eat a
piece of meat, it’s an education system that
forces clichés on controlled minds. If it’s
not an industrial culture pumping out millions
of images per second making individual
artists almost unnecessary, it’s a lover
abandoning her just when she falls in love.
Bennett tries to make sense of it all after the
bars close. Using lipstick to draw with,
Bennett does not hold back and lets rip her
displeasure and pain over the untenable
contradictions and mythologies she is
forced to wrestle with.
The poverty of finances and thought
surrounding her, Bennett quickly throws
marks, pastes collages, and scrawls writings
onto the first piece of paper she finds.
While Bennett is a sensitive colorist and
possesses a delightfully lyrical drawing
touch, she will throw a tantrum when the
issue calls for it. Many of the works are
uncomfortable to look at, since Bennett
doesn’t mind cussing or using a lover’s
used condom to express the lonely outrage
of the cheated upon. Her craft is often a
wanton disregard for any sound rules of
engagement, and there is a constant theme
of rejection running through the pieces as
Bennett breaks one art-making rule after
In a culture of waste, she steals images
and then defaces them to contextualize her
experience. Amid the debris of the rants,
Bennett puts forth a strong talent deserving
of larger work and durable materials. But
you’ll have to excuse her for now, there’s
more bad news coming in over the cellphone.
Titles and prices are available and
gallery hours are 10:00 a.m.- 5:00 p.m.
Mon- Sat.

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