In the development of his work Ben-Zion revealed his strong effort to get back to a beginning: to penetrate the layers that obscure the senses in order to try to understand the nature of his being. It was in the search for self-discovery that Ben-Zion sharpened his awareness of the world around him. Whatever he gathered - literature, poetry, artifacts - had to have the imprint of the universal.
If one could characterize Ben-Zion it would be by his vibrancy, his marked awareness of all his senses, with all the pleasure and discomforts that it brought him. It nourished his creativity and stimulated his thinking. It engendered and enabled him to labor and forge an inestimable body of work that continues to capture our imagination.
This group of photographs portrays Ben-Zion’s home/studio in Chelsea, Manhattan. His own drawings, paintings and iron works are interspersed with the objects he gathered around him: ancient and ethnographic artifacts, pebbles, minerals, shells, clay concretions – for Ben-Zion these were a testimony to the creativity of nature and man.
Ben-Zion filled his home with beloved objects and interspersed his own work amongst them.
The artist's palette, as left by Ben-Zion.
Ben-Zion's portrait of his wife Lillian adorns a wall on the second floor. Below the painting is a photograph of the artist and his wife in Mexico in 1954. With plans to visit Frida Kahlo, Ben-Zion and Lillian attended her funeral instead.
Ben-Zion gathered minerals, fossils and stones. Here, the artist etched a face into one of his findings.
A presentation of the artist's miniatures interspersed with mounted pebble drawings.
A display of hand-forged tools, antique iron and Ben-Zion’s iron sculptures.
Found objects mounted by Ben-Zion, approx. 4 - 6". Clay concretions are natural objects of clay and silt that are formed underwater. Native Americans revered and carried them in their medicine pouches. Thoreau writings were a profound influence on Ben-Zion and some of the clay concretions Thoreau gathered are included in the Thoreau collection at Harvard. Ben-Zion picked up these concretions at the "magic stream" in Vermont, at the sea side in Israel, and other places. He considered them nature's sculpture and mounted them, much like the Chinese mounted their scholar rocks. He had such reverence for clay concretions that he humorously submitted one to an exhibition of sculpture collected by fellow artists. When he replaced rare Eskimo artifacts with these concretions in one of his display cabinets he declared tenderly, "these are no less precious to me."