Michele Benzamin-Miki

Born 1955
Lives in: Warner Springs, California, USA
Describe your art in three words: Elevating Provocative Catalyzing
Education: Self-taught artist

Elevation - Sumi ink and Graphite pencil on paper 39 x 63 in.

There is power in being seen, not just by others, but in seeing oneself. My art is inspired by a life time of work as a teacher, of Zen meditation, non-violent martial arts of Aikido, Japanese sword forms of Iaido, Hypnosis and other skills and healing modalities: this spiritually integrative work informs and becomes a strong part of my art. My art integrates Abstract and Realism.

What themes does your work involve?
There is a spiritually uplifting theme that runs through my art, as in my process. That isn’t to say I bypass themes of suffering, they are just elevated. I draw on my own experience of the feminine and portray woman in their strength and vulnerability (which are non-opposing). I draw on my dreams, nighttime are the most inspiring, as they bring what is unconscious to light. Many series of work have come from my dream work.
Describe your creative process.
The brush work comes out of a ‘point zero’ inner stillness, or expansive awareness in meditating before or while producing a piece. Regardless if I paint one stroke or many, the strokes are connected in one continuous energetic movement using a large brush on paper or canvas with Japanese ink. I want to make visible the inner world. The intention is to evoke and invite the viewer to access a whole body state of being present, in the presence of the art. The principle of 'Ma' in Japanese calligraphy and brushwork, considers the space around the brush strokes as important as the brush strokes, creating ‘space’ inside your audience. Sometimes I come back into a piece, adding details, drawing in pencil or other media. I integrate figurative work into these energetic strokes.
What influences your work? What inspires you? Why do you make art?
You could say I am an animist; I choose to believe everything is alive and has a consciousness, therefore everything is connected, and everything matters. My life is about making connections, especially with the brush, ink, pencil, and.paper, and my practices and disciplines polish the inner lenses in which I perceive the world, and translate this onto paper or canvas. The very act of creating inspires me, because it engages my senses, and awareness. I make art because I can. I make art because it is an effective method to spread inner peace and resources, countering the effects of focusing only on ‘negative messages’ in these times, to a more well rounded view of, what is possible now, and for the times ahead.
What is good art? What makes a piece of art great?
Good art evokes strong feelings, provokes thinking, opens the senses. What makes a piece of art great is the ability of the artist to transmit what they see and feel about their subject, effecting the viewer to look straight into the world of the artist, Great art is a transmutation, transcending conventional communication.
What is the role of the artist today?
The role of the artist today is to make good art, great art. The role of the artist today Is to bring art back to the raw intensity of the sacred. The role of the artist today is to catalyze renewal in the individuals and for the society as a whole, by remaining faithful to their spirit.
Light Force
Illuminated Woman


This interview was published by Circle Foundation of the Arts. © CFA Press ∙ Images are courtesy of the artist