Artist Andrew Benson and the “minion” he’s been working on for five-years.

By MORGAN FRISCH

Recorder News Staff

Andrew Benson flips a piece of scrap metal back and forth between his hands and sometimes an idea will just come to him.

Many of his nights are spent at his shop in the Sanford Clock Tower with coffee, cigarettes and music. Soundgarden is one of his favorite bands to listen to. His tools are neatly hung, and buckets filled with scrap metal, nuts and bolts line the perimeter of the room.

“The pile of scrap might sit there for two years and then all of a sudden I’ll look and see something in that pile,” Benson said Thursday afternoon. “It just pops.”

The 58-year-old began working on his first piece of art five years ago. While finishing up at the Modern Welding School in Schenectady he created a Viking longboat represented his Scandinavian heritage for a final project. The boat he welded was so intricate, that even the instructor noticed the quality of his work. Benson said he couldn’t finish the project in the two months he had to complete it but it inspired him to try and create something else.

Although he was always artistic, Benson said his entire life was spent working in construction. After welding school, he said he did a few sporadic jobs, but it never really ended up turning into anything.

Now, he’s focused on his art and is hopeful to use it to make a living. After the longboat, Benson began working on a life-size sculpture he refers to as the “minion.”

The piece was created entirely of scrap from a restaurant exhaust hood that he hammered the pieces and welded together. The creature has a faint line for its vertebrae under the metal and a hump on its back for Benson to place wings. Benson said hundreds of hours have already been put into the minion.

All of his smaller creations were scattered over a table in the shop on Thursday. His favorite is a tree made of nuts, bolts and a bike chain that represents a darker time in his life.

Benson said he has struggled with depression for years and art is a release for him.

“It’s tough, so people should know,” he said. “Pieces like (the tree) might upset some people, but that’s life, that’s the reality of life and people go through that.”

There was a rose on the table created entirely out of spoons, as well as a fish and a spider created from silverware.

Benson said he has been collecting spoons, knives and forks for the past five years. The fish, which has fins made out of fork prongs, came from a robot that was never finished. The spider, except for its legs, is also all spoons.

“Depending on what the piece is, that dictates the medium,” Benson said.

He has painted on glass, and used wood, metal, stone and even house insulation as tools.

Two coffee tins filled with bits and pieces of red granite stone was on the counter near the artwork. Benson said his friend dropped it off for him to use. With the stone, tweezers and a magnify glass, he built a face. Each stone was smashed into small pieces and the slivers were layered to create the piece.

It took at least 120 hours to create, Benson said. From the back, it appeared to be the shape of the continent Africa. Benson said it represents how every human is a descendant of Africa. There is room for a small tea candle to light up the face. Benson called it “a glorified candle holder.”

Another item in his shop was created with house insulation, Bondo, a type of putty, and a heating gun.

“It’s the freedom of choice,” Benson said.

Benson said he loves being able to work when he wants doing what makes him happy.

“The biggest thing is I waited so long to get started,” he said. “I wasted so much time and there is so many things now in my mind, all these I’ve got to do. All of these ideas.”

He said he does know where he gets the talent from. When looking back at his pieces, he said he didn’t remember how or what he did to create it.

“It just happens,” he said. “It’s almost like my hands are eyes in itself. I can see what I’m going to create in a three-dimensional form.”

Benson said he rarely uses the Internet because he wants to make sure all of his ideas are original. He said he is also very critical of himself and doesn’t want to compare his work to other artists.

“I’m learning as I go,” Benson said. “There are no instructions so I don’t know what I can’t do.”

Benson described himself growing up as an angry, troubled kid who was kind of rebellious. Now as an adult with grandchildren who finally seems to have found his passion, Benson said his goal is to never give them the wrong impression of the kind of person he is.

“I don’t want to lose everything I’ve gained,” he said, while pointing to all of the pieces of art surrounding him.

His daughter is in the process of creating him an Etsy page so he can spread the word and put pieces up for sale. Anyone interested in checking out the work in his shop or who would like to suggest a custom piece can contact Benson at 518-419-9071.

“I like to see people’s reactions when they see my work,” he said. “When they ask me how I did that, it makes me feel good,” Benson said. “Arts a release for me and I’m trying to make a living doing it.”