Ana Benaroya received her BFA in 2008 from Maryland Institute College of Art and is currently at Yale University, where she is getting her MFA in Painting. She will graduate in 2019. In 2017, Ana was an artist in residence at Newark Print Shop, NJ, and in 2015, she completed the Iceland Residency – Light Grey Art Lab. She has been in numerous solo and group shows has led lectures and has taught at Parsons, The New School for Design and City College, City University of New York.

If you could have dinner with anyone in the world, dead or alive, who would you choose and why?

Freddie Mercury. I want to experience his energy and power in person. He was such an amazing performer and I would love to see what he was like in a quieter situation like dinner. Also – as someone who is pretty introverted, I’m always curious/envious of those who seem naturally outgoing and loud. Opposites attract, I suppose. 

Advice to your 15-year-old self?

Calm down, accept yourself for who you are, middle school/early high school will be the worst but life gets so much better. 

Why did you choose to be an artist?

There is no rational reason, haha…I just felt like I had to. It’s definitely a compulsion – one not entirely explainable. 

Are there certain artists, styles or movements you’ve drawn inspiration from? Please elaborate.

The Hairy Who from Chicago, such as Karl Winsum, Jim Nutt, Gladys Nilsson. I love the funky energy their work has…pure emotion. Tom of Finland – I am drawn to the erotic and the way he drew men is just genius. Superhero comics in general were a huge inspiration to me when I was younger – I was obsessed with the male figure and learning to draw all the muscles. 

What do you want your viewers to take away from your work?

I want them to laugh, to feel weird, to relate in some strange way to what they are viewing. I want them to sense the honesty of the work. I want women in particular to feel empowered – that they are in on the joke. And for men to question it. 

Can you talk about technique?

When I first started making art I was mostly drawing – mostly black and white. I would use pencil and pen and draw mostly small things in a sketchbook. Then I started expanding into color and started painting towards the end of undergrad. To me – the image and the emotion behind it are number one – so I tend to work quickly and roughly. I’m not one to sit and make it perfect. 

Three attributes to describe yourself?

Quiet, Kind, Strange

If you weren’t an artist what else would you do?

Probably be a chef or something with food. I’m not a particularly good cook now, but I like working with my hands and this seems like a good fit. 

What was the last exhibit you went to that really stuck with you and why?

There was a Tom of Finland drawing exhibit I saw in NYC. I never thought I’d have the chance to see his original work and it blew my mind. SUCH beautiful delicate drawings that held a huge amount of passion and desire. 

How would you describe the word ” ART “, What does it mean to you?

Art to me means the inner human. Art is makes the invisible visible – it is a way to understand the meaning of life. Our lives on this earth don’t really make much sense. We try to build structures and ways of living to give meaning but ultimately – I think most of these come up short. Making art and viewing art I think is a comfort. A way of dealing. 

Do you have any quotes from previous artists which are important for you? A few words of wisdom that you hold onto or remember?

I’m never good at remembering quotes – but I do love RuPaul – and I love how he ends every show of Drag Race with “If you don’t love yourself how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?” Truer words have never been spoken.