Upon moving into our location in Kendall Yards, there was a lot of talk among the Inlander staff about this miraculous painting that was hanging in the entrance of the new building. We’d never seen anything quite like it and soon realized it was a Ben Joyce piece. (You can see it in the video below.) I became stunned by this guy’s talent after doing a little research, and really wanted to talk to him. I met him at his studio, which is tucked away in a little unassuming warehouse in North Spokane.
When meeting Joyce, a Gonzaga grad, I quickly noticed a few things: He loves his art, he loves his family, and he loves Spokane. Here’s a look at some our discussion.
When did you decide this is what you wanted to do?
Going through college and thinking, “Oh, I need to become a business professional out in the world” and having the approach that being an artist is a hobby, it was really a little bit of a battle. I was thinking, “What am I going to do?” but then also, “Why am I ignoring this talent?” Having a wife, and thinking of a family, I thought there was never going to be security with the artwork. But it just got to the point where it became such a strong calling that I couldn’t turn it off, and so I decided to stop ignoring it and went after it.
How did you develop your style, which you’ve coined as “abstract topophilia?”
I was hitting a wall with traditional landscapes. I was unable to capture that real pride of place. So I thought, there’s got to be a way to create that pride of place in an actual fine art piece, and that’s when I came up with this idea of painting from an aerial perspective. It really allows the individual to populate it with their own connections and histories. I become, essentially, the viewer, and they’re telling me what the piece is about.
Your work centers on a love of place, so why is Spokane the place for you?
Right away the pace of the city was one that I enjoyed. Then having met my wife at Gonzaga (who is from Spokane), we always knew we wanted to live here. And you do kind of miss it, it’s just one of those towns. With the roots that she has and Gonzaga and, you know, it’s kind of everything you need in a city. We can live a comfortable life, rather than living in a rat race somewhere and trying to compete and trying to justify and prove yourself to other people. That’s not what my work is about. I’m not about trying to compete with other artists. It’s just a whole different life that I want to lead. I’ve always wanted a family and to make living off my art, so Spokane is a great place to do it.
Do you participate in First Fridays?
Yeah, the First Fridays are a great event. I’ll do one a year here in Spokane because a lot of the people here in Spokane have helped me get to where I am. Fortunately for me, big things are happening. I’d love to do 10 pieces a year and just give them all to the public. And now that I’m building more security for my family, I look to the people that have helped me get to this point. I think it’s important not to forget about that, and that’s why I’ll do these shows.
What was it like doing your commissioned piece for The Inlander?
Once they said they were in the process of getting this building, I was really excited. You know, it’s always flattering when people hold walls out for your work. They actually wanted a smaller piece for that space, but going in and seeing how dramatic the wall is in the entrance and knowing the business, I thought to myself, how can I not do a piece that’s going to make a statement? Then we just made it work.
Joyce prints his first name on each of his pieces with almost transparent subtlety. He said some people ask him if he writes it in crayon, but it appears to be both an artistic and humble choice. It’s the distinctive final touch on each of his pieces, which are consistently in a category of their own. To see more of Joyce's work, check out his website: benjoyceart.com.