Ben Venom‘s latest eyeball-searing, Heavy Metal Quilt is on display at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco. This impressive new piece is a staggering 13′ x 15′ and it is comprised of over 125 Heavy Metal t-shirts.

Left: One of Venom’s Applique denim vests.  Right: Opening night – Ben Venom (right) throwing up horns with fellow artist John Casey (left) who wore one of Ben Venom’s signature applique shirts to the show.
Left: The opening night reception was packed! When we arrived at 10pm, there was a line of at least 300 people that snaked down the block. Right: some of the amazing artists in attendance (left to right) Derek WeisbergJohn CaseyLucien Shapiro, and Kevin E Taylor. Check out their work!

The following photos are at Venom’s studio during the making of the quilt. The detail shots are taken during the construction. If you look closely enough, you can see the sewing pins … now consider that those pins are approx 1.5″ long and you can get a sense of the enormity of this quilt’s scale. I know how to sew and for the record, this quilt blows my mind.

A little background to this man with a past.
Venom’s work has long been rife with contradictions and he has been smashing opposing concepts together for a long time. Case in point, his recent body of work has been quilted textiles, often considered “women’s work,” yet they’ve been made with graphically aggressive (and highly masculine) Heavy Metal T-shirts. In other words, not your grandma’s sewing circle.

Previously, he has placed colorful graphic designs on tobacco dip cans, created provocative stickers, embroidered morbid scenes, and of course, makes bespoke rock-n-roll pillows. In all cases, I find Ben Venom’s work extraordinarily clever, exceedingly wry, and highly unique.

I would be remiss to not also admit, I just plain like Ben. He’s a damn fine gentleman and a loyal friend to those he cares for. I have been a fan ever since meeting him at the closing reception for Kevin E. Taylor’s 2010 solo show at Eleanor Harwood Gallery in San Francisco. (I have previously featured Taylor’s work.) Mr. Venom, a true Southern Georgia gentleman, was manning the boiled peanuts pot he prepared for his pal “KT’s” show.  Venom was quick to offer me a plastic baggy full of the soggy, salty gems and his infamous “Skull Poison” sticker. Accompanying the gifts was a crooked smile and a sarcastic wise-crack. Warm boiled peanuts, stickers, and sharp-witted humor? What’s not to love? 

Mr Venom was kind enough to answer the five questions I ask everyone (plus a few more). A fantastic interview can be read at the heartfelt art blog My Love For You.

Ransom Notes: Ben Venom

What artists or creative person has influenced you?
Lari Pittman, Banks Violette, and Ozzy are big influences on my work. These are people that have pushed the boundaries in their given field for many years. Of course Ozzy is a little insane…HA! He is quoted as saying “Out of all the things I’ve lost…I miss my mind the most.”

Not including other artists or art, what inspires you?
Reading…lately I’ve been reading a lot of Non-Fiction about the American South. I’m about to read Hells Angel: The Life and Times of Sonny Barger. I also listen to a lot of different Podcast about politics, current events, and of course Ted talks.

What is the part of your process you enjoy the most?
enjoy working with the materials and seeing my idea go through all the edits and mess ups and finally come out on the other side as a finished piece.

… the least?
My least favorite part is always working towards the ever looming DEADLINE! Aaaarrrggghhh!

If you were NOT an artist, what would you be doing?
I would probably run my own business. My mother owned her own engraving business when my sister and I were young and my father currently runs a Pest Control company in North Georgia. Apparently, I can take over the Pest Control company whenever I move back to Georgia…HA! Venom Pest Control…you see it, I’ll kill it!

Do you sell your work ? If so, how do people buy it?
All the work will be for sale…YBCA is a non-profit and I am not sure how they are gonna handle sales. If someone is interested in a piece they can contact me directly. 

I know a lot of people have cherished (but old) t-shirts stuffed in their drawers, I bet they’d look better hanging on their walls… do you take commissions? If so, how do people contact you?
Yes, I recently made a quilt for Pirates Press Records owner Eric Mueller. The quilt was made from his old punk rock shirts and bands on his label. (custom quilt below)

Also worth noting, Ben has taught screen printing before and rumor has it he will be teaching quilting classes at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and at Workshop SF.

Venom has had some entraining interviews with Illogical Contraption, Seth Curcio of Daily Serving, and an insightful glance at the flight of talent from Atlanta by Eerin Greer of Burnaway.

If you’d like to view more of Mr. Ben Venom’s textile work please visit his website and blog.

Thank you for your time, Ben!