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Suzanne Benton takes viewers on world journeys

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The mystical work of artist and world traveler Suzanne Benton will feel like familiar territory for those who prefer remote villages to big cities.

Using layers of texture, vibrant colors and classic images, Benton draws upon her own journeys to create art that feels both old and new.

“World Piece,” on display through March 26 at ArtHaus in San Francisco, includes 16 of Benton’s monoprints. Also in the show are three welded metal masks that Benton has used as performance art.

Benton, a two-time Fulbright scholar whose work is in museums, galleries and public and private collections around the world, considers herself a transculturalist. It’s easy to see why.

“The work is always reflective of where she is,” says ArtHaus gallerist James Bacchi.

All but two of the monoprints are displayed unframed. That was done on purpose, Bacchi explains, so that visitors can appreciate the labor-intensive work.

Using a process called Chine Colle, Benton creates her prints using handmade and handpainted papers and a 30-by-50-inch press. The printing plates are inked one at a time; in the final step, images and colle papers adhere to a sheet of etching paper and the plate and paper are run through the press to create the finished piece.

“We wanted people to really see what these prints are about,” Bacchi says. “We wanted them to see the delicacy and the intricacy of the work.”

The exhibit highlights work Benton created while in India, Russia, Japan, Egypt, China, England, Africa and Greece. In one, there is the profile of a dancer; in another, a sphinx.

Benton collects images she finds during her travels — and she’s not going to places such as London and Paris.

With names like “Calligraphers Delight” and “The Garment of Wings,” the art invites viewers to reflect on journeys far beyond the gallery walls.

While visitors view Benton’s work at the South of Market gallery, Benton — who is based in New York — is on the road again, teaching workshops in India. She has shown her art in nearly 30 countries during the past three decades and currently has a show at the American Center in New Delhi.

The ArtHaus room where Benton’s work is exhibited is painted bright red, thanks to a previous exhibit. Bacchi says they decided to leave the wall color because it works — and it does. With bits of red shining through the eyes of her masks, there’s a sense of drama that plain walls could not provide.


Suzanne Benton: World Piece

ArtHaus, 411 Brannan St., San Francisco

When: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays; noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays;  closes March 26

Admission: Free

Contact: (415) 977-0223, www.arthaus-sf.com

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