Barton Lidice Benes


Severe Emphysema, Full-time Oxygen use, Neuropathy, HIV, Diabetes

Here are two passages taken from the artist’s book, “Curiosa: Celebrity Relics, Historical Fossils, & Other Metamorphic Rubbish,” NY: Harry N. Abrams, Inc, 2002.

Referring to the artist’s reliquaries and museums:

With reliquaries, I put my passion for art and for collecting together into form. One of the first I made was about money. Society worships money, and these relics…became “sacred objects” from this religion. I went on to do reliquaries focused on celebrity culture. We look at movie stars as gods, so these celebrity relics correspond to Christian reliquaries. On a personal level, my reliquaries are a way of documenting the lives of my friends. Because AIDS, there is a strong element of remembrance in my work. We all have things that only we know are relics. A slip of paper with a lover’s phone number, the ticket to a movie we’ve kept for years, or a handkerchief with a scent of perfume. Left to history, these objects fall by the wayside…Without the stories, these objects mean nothing, but when they are mounted they become special. And when the provenance is attached they become interesting, and when they are combined with many more similar objects in a collection, they become art. Alone they’re simply memories—placed together, in the right order, the objects create a visually interesting museum that reads like a book or a musical composition.

Referring to the artist’s seminal “Lethal Weapon” series from the 1990s:

I made an exhibition of objects that contained my HIV-positive blood. It all started one day when I was cutting parsley in the kitchen and cut my finger. There was blood everywhere. I panicked and started to clean everything with bleach, when I realized how crazy this was. I was afraid of my own blood. That was when I became aware of what a powerful metaphor this was and decided to make a series called “lethal weapons.” If I was afraid of my own blood, one could imagine how an ignorant public would feel. I filled water pistols with my blood, made Molotov cocktails, poison darts, joke squirt flowers, etc. 

Entomology 2009 16x14in. cut currency/paper Reliquarium 2008 30x22in. mixed media assemblage Music Box 2008 37x30x2in. mixed media assemblage Manuscript 2010 34x27x1 mixed media collage
cut currency/paper
16" x 14"
mixed media assemblage
30" x 22"
Music Box
mixed media assemblage
37" x 30" x 2"
mixed media collage
x 27" x 1"
Spider Web 2010 12x15in. mixed media/paper Jars 2010 22x30in. mixed media assemblage PeepShow 2008 30x26x3in. Mixed Media Assemblage Petite Fours 2008 15x14x2in. AIDS drugs/paper
Spider Web
mixed media/paper
12" x 15"
mixed media assemblage
22" x 30"
mixed media assemblage
30" x 26" x 3"
Petite Fours
AIDS drugs/paper
15" x 14" x 2"