|Benjamin Garner, Blood Woork: Mandalas (Portraits): Portrait of a 25 year-old half Chinese straight female heroin addict with Hepatitis C, 2014|
Today's Portrait Monday is brought to you by recent Emily Carr graduate, Benjamin Garner.
The spiritual symbol of the mandala represents the entirety of the universe; for its viewers, it is intended to evoke a higher awareness or a sacred space. Garner's mandalas do this: roughly body-sized, they are hypnotic and alluring. Only upon closer observation does one realize that they are silkscreened in donated blood.
In titling his works, Garner leaves his subjects anonymous, identifying them instead by age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, substance dependencies, and blood-borne diseases. In doing so he acknowledges a history of prejudice and misinformation regarding sexuality, addiction, and illness. And Garner has a personal stake in the project: one of the mandalas is a self-portrait. Peaceful yet disquieting, the works turn our attention to the nuances in our perception of the individuals around us. They nearly negate their titles in their beautiful universality, existing to gently prod us into a sort of idealistic spiritual acceptance -- to confirm that, regardless of our differences, we're built of the same elemental substances.