James Gordon Bennett (born in 1963) is an American artist who grew up in Muncie, Indiana. His interests through adolescence were all things creative with James pursuing art, theater, and musical performance. He began the study of Fine Art at Ball State University, but upon completion of his first year he was offered a contract in a touring rock band and left school. After a year of touring, Bennett found that Fine Art offered a better vehicle to explore the concepts he wanted to convey and he returned to Ball State University to complete a B.F.A. in Drawing.
At Ball State, James met the artist Phillip Pearlstein, who recommended the M.F.A. program at the University of South Florida. Bennett moved to Tampa, FL to further pursue the creation of Art at U.S.F. Through both programs, Bennett’s art employed a variety of drawing, painting, installation, and sculpture in which he challenged the viewer in regard to Art as an object.
“I think the very first thing that happens when a viewer engages in Art is an evaluation between the work and self. The viewer tries to establish how they are supposed to see the work. Are they looking into an illusionary space in traditional scene painting? Should the viewer be aware the art is occupying the same space they do? Should the work be viewed as mostly conceptual? In other words, how does the viewer observe the piece? Observing is not passive, but actually requires recognition of identity."
In his first solo exhibition at the age of twenty-five, Bennett put together a show that blurred the lines between art displayed in a typical gallery setting and a full environment. For the viewer, looking at the art became a conscious effort intended to challenge the preconceived notions of what art was supposed to be.
Since then, Bennett has continually challenged both the traditional presentation and the visual vocabulary of what is expected to be found in fine art. He became an early adopter in the beginnings of the digital arts movement and created works that went beyond simple imagery. These works were experiential and focused on how people engaged with media and how the new forms of media consumption changed our perceptions and behaviors. In the form of websites, books, and other media, Bennett created Art without letting the viewer know they were looking at art. During this period he was employed as a college educator- teaching art, media theory, and design, all the while employing a conscious Duchampian approach to making art.
As a professor, Bennett developed an Art philosophy based on the concept that all cultures have a visual vocabulary that both informs and makes up a group’s metanarratives. As an author of several college textbooks and articles on Design, he introduced these ideas into formal design education, where they were adopted on a broader scale.
Rooted in this perspective, Bennett’s work draws on an eclectic collection of visual elements from our culture. These elements are used to reveal knowledge and understanding that has become obscured or even lost in the transition from one media form to another.
Bennett lives and works near Tampa, Florida.