“I am very interested in power, who holds it, how it is used, how it informs every narrative, and how it can be taken back – by women, in particular. From a queer perspective I explore this notion of power:” This is core to how Ana Benaroya approaches art-making, and the potency of her works are energized by the immense scale. They are large, overwhelming. To experience them in a gallery is to meet each character face to face, and that piercing dream of a universe becomes all-consuming. Immersed in Benaroya’s creations, you can almost hear the music play, heady from the thick cigarette smoke. Exaggerated in physical form, you enter an alternate world where might women indulge and enjoy a satisying salon of art, music and culture.

I was thinking about this even before I read the Benaroya’s conversation about her newest solo show, The Softest Place on Earth, on view at Ross + Kramer Gallery from November 12—December 18, 2020. Benaroya’s 13 new paintings, 6 works on paper and bronze work are all inspired by the Gertrude Stein salon, or as the artist says, “The women who are in attendance are overflowing with creative passion and desire; it spills out of their bodies to create new bodies. In this salon, creation is intellectual, emotional and physical.” 

Where Benaroya’s solo show Teach Me Tonight, which opened at Richard Heller earlier this year (for which we had our cover story with the artist) was built around a jazz cafe, The Softest Place on Earth is more intimate, where the abundance of action takes place at an apartment. Books are all around. The space is a little more confined, and yet a richness and lush feeling captures each work. Where Teach Me Tonight felt like a fully formed exhalation of near-debauchery, Softest Place feels like the genesis of a movement. And that is right where Benaroya seems to be in her own creative world; on the precipice of something brand new and leading a generation of new painters who balance comic book reverie with a socially conscious engaged mindset.  

“In the microcosm of this apartment party, a new world is being created,” Benaroya says. “The new world is chaotic and in its infancy, stumbling to find its feet and its language. Through this cacophony, however, permeates a constant throbbing and steady heartbeat. Blood is pumping and the air is filled with desire and excitement. With each of these paintings I hoped to capture and reveal just a moment of this sapphic genesis.” —Evan Pricco