“Redressing the Wound” is an art installation at the National Museum of Civil War Medicine on display from September 1, 2018 – January 12, 2019. Inspired by Civil War medicine, artist Michael Benevenia has created sculptures that explore the legacy of America’s bloodiest conflict and its lingering impacts on our world today.
Michael Benevenia, originally from Northern New Jersey, completed his BFA in visual arts and art history at Rutgers University, and then became certified in structural plate welding at Hohokus School of Technical Trades and Services in Paterson, NJ. Soon after he began working as a sculpture technician at the Sculpture Foundation’s Johnson Atelier; then promoted to supervisor of the monumental fabrication department. He left The Sculpture Foundation to obtain his MFA in sculpture at Maryland Institute College of Art’s Rinehart School of Sculpture, focusing his thesis research on American Civil War medicine. Michael moved to Lancaster, PA where he currently works for Millersville University as the Department of Art & Design’s Studio Technician and an adjunct Instructor. Michael had a solo exhibition “Gravity and other fistfights” at Gallery Aferro in Newark, NJ in the fall of 2016 and has recently been in two-person exhibitions at Montgomery College in Silver Spring, MD, and Harford Community College in Belair, MD. He has exhibited in group exhibitions at the Charles Sumner School Museum in Washington D.C., The Delaware Contemporary in Wilmington, DE, The Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, NJ, The Spartanburg Art Museum, SC, and The Arnot Art Museum in Elmira, NY. Michael presented his work to the 2017 National Museum of Civil War Medicine’s annual conference and was awarded a residency in 2017 at Sculpture Space in Utica, NY. Michael was a Janet & Walter Sondheim ARTSCAPE Prize Semi-Finalist in both 2016 and 2018 and will be having a solo exhibition in 2019 at Coker College in South Carolina.
About the artist and created “Redressing the Wound”
“I have been visiting the Museum frequently in the last three years and making artwork in response to these visits. The dioramas, exhibits, artifacts, and photographs provide significantly stirring emotional and also aesthetic points from which I have made sculptures and paintings. The placement of the sculptures within the Museum were made to highlight conceptual connections to the themes of the rooms or a material association with the physical elements in the space. In each visit to the Museum I am able to find and engage a new facet of the stories of sacrifice, division, grief, and healing to further inform my artwork.”
About the artist’s work
“As an artist I work predominantly three dimensionally as a sculptor. I was first exposed to steel as an artistic material through my father’s welded sculptures. My parents medical careers, alongside my father’s art, have significantly informed my artwork. The artwork I made before I started graduate school was almost exclusively made out of steel with painted elements, and was heavily influenced by the American sculptor David Smith, the Brazilian artist Lygia Clark, and my experiences within the Catholic Church. I went to graduate school in Baltimore, MD, and materially my work grew to not only use steel but also to include wood, foam, plaster, and found objects [objects artists’ use in their work that they did not make themselves]. My experiences living outside of the North coincided with the emerging national debate regarding the status of Confederate monuments as well as questioning police use of force against minorities. I began to become interested in researching Civil War medicine as a inspiration for my artwork, and as a way to try to make work about trying to heal the longstanding national divides following the failure of the post-Civil War era of Reconstruction.”
Connections to the National Museum of Civil War Medicine:
“My interest in Civil War medicine began when I happened upon the National Museum of Civil War Medicine in 2015. I saw the metaphorical power of Civil War medicine within the current national debates regarding Confederate monuments and the legacy of systemic racism. I see issues fought over during the war as an unhealed national wound in our American cultural body, and Civil War medical images and artifacts as a source of inspiration for art work about empathy.”