Marla Benton is a ceramic artist and educator living and working in Mahone Bay,
Nova Scotia. Her medium of choice is clay which allows function and sculpture to
mix or be completely separate. A piece can be simultaneously practical and fanciful.
Both Benton’s gallery work and installation art encourage personal connection
through text and surprising elements that challenge expectations, evoke curiosity,
and encourage interactions and participation. Each piece of Benton’s work is
presented as an expression of clay’s exploratory process: a single idea may progress
through multiple forms as Benton physically explores it.
Originally from small town Ontario, Benton sampled a variety of art materials, and
took her first part-time job at the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery. Post-secondary
school, she enrolled in the Ontario College of Art and Design, where she found clay
her preferred medium. After transferring to the Nova Scotia College of Art and
Design, Benton completed her degree with a major in ceramics, studying under the
guidance of Walter Ostrom, Neil Forrest and Rory MacDonald. Following graduation,
while working for a studio production pottery in Whitehorse, Yukon, Benton felt the
need to open more doors for her future. Moving across the country again, she earned her second degree from Nipissing University (BED).
After years of adventure travel, teaching and creating, she settled on the South Shore of Nova Scotia. Benton has balanced working in her studio and teaching ceramic workshops. Her installation work in the last five years with Nocturne: Art at Night and Uncommon Common Art has been highly complemented by educational outreach programs that allow large public participation and entire schools to create public art projects. These aspects of her work fuel both her need to create and her desire to teach.
Benton has exhibited her work nationally, across the country from coast to coast, and internationally, reaching such unique destinations as Nuuk, Greenland. Her work has been published in Canada and the USA. She has received Creation Grants from Arts NS, ArtsSmarts Grants from the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, and participated in Artist Residencies. Benton presently sits on the Board of Craft Nova Scotia as a Director-at-Large.
Clay is an art form that allows for function and sculpture to mix or be completely separate. My style varies from project to project, depending on context and purpose; pushing the boundaries of sensibility leads me from pure function, to functional decoration, to pieces that are purely decorative. I see my work in the middle of the world of art and the world of craft; not wanting to commit to either set of standards or their theories, I consider myself a combination of the two.
My work is playful. I love to be challenged with the scale and perspective of a piece. We understand scale because of an internal comparison of what is supposed to be big and what is supposed to be small. By changing the scale of an object, there tends to be an emotional reaction in some way or another. I strive to create pieces that people think about days after seeing them.
Incorporating an interactive aspect to my work is very important, whether it be on a functional, sculptural or installation piece of art. Being able to touch, move or engage with a piece allows there to be a deeper connection to the art, as well as its location. The interaction leaves them with an emotional, mental and physical memory of the art. I have an interest in ergonomics and how a person would come in contact with an object, whether it be functional or sculptural. I enjoy being able to play with the complexities of how to handle a piece of art. Beside physically touching or moving my art pieces, I often engage an interaction with my work through surface decoration. Text or writing is a way to grab an extended attention to a piece. By using text, a personal journal entry or a comical interlude, I capture attention and curiosity.
As a trained Educator, some art projects I have been involved with have had a primary focus working with the public to be creative and engage them with a specific material. Nocturne in Halifax is an example of a type of educational installation that I have been a part of. These installations are inspiring and complex. Being able to connect the public with art on a large scale helps bring awareness to how art is created, the time and dedication that artists put into their work, and the value that art holds on so many different levels. This aspect of my work fuels both my need to create and my desire to teach.
But when it comes down to it, as an artist, creating doesn’t have to have any value other than intuitive choice. The more I create, the happier I am.