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Pushing Boundaries: Painter Sally King Benedict explores color on abstract canvases
As a girl in Atlanta, Sally King Benedict learned to appreciate art that most people would call plain bizarre. Her mother, a contemporary art gallerista, had her attending high-profile gallery openings and visiting the homes of clients by the time she was in elementary school. Raised to toss around words like conceptual and Art Deco, Benedict was chosen from the art world at birth, it seems—now, the 25-year-old’s abstract canvases are making their way into homes and galleries all over the Southeast.
Working out of her Redux studio, right next door to local artist and photographer Tim Hussey, Benedict turns the music up and splashes canvases with wild streaks of color. “Sally has confidence in her artistic process, which is so much about letting go and pushing boundaries—it takes guts for sure,” Hussey explains.
Pushing boundaries is certainly nothing new to Benedict. During her sophomore year as a studio art major at the College of Charleston, she packed up and headed for New York. Lured by friends studying at prestigious art schools like Parsons and Pratt, she took an internship at Chanel and dreamt of a soon-to-come day when she could paint full time. After six months, though, the Big Apple lost its luster, and the budding artist learned how essential the Lowcountry is to her work. “I left New York dedicated to pouring myself into the studio art program at CofC,” she says. “I needed to be pushed. I needed confidence.”
And confidence is exactly what she gained—first from her art professors, who dubbed her affinity for color and abstraction as far beyond her years, then from local interior designer Kathleen Rivers, who took a chance on her talent and cohosted her first solo show with Janet Porcher Gregg in 2008.
Since the exhibit, Benedict has embraced the life of a full-time artist. With her work being featured by Coastal Living last year, she finally feels secure in her talent. Her art has become consistently spontaneous and experimental as she devotes herself to exploring loose lines and free forms. Inspired by masters such as Helen Frankenthaler and Pablo Picasso, she focuses on color and leaves interpretation of her work open to the audience.
“Do I paint with a message?” Benedict considers the question carefully. “Not really—I paint as if the piece were going to hang in my living room. I wish I had a really profound reason for why I paint the way I do, but it’s not complex.”
Engaged to be married in May, Benedict has also been accepted into the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. But for the moment, she plans to put graduate school on hold and remain at Redux, gleaning criticism and inspiration from her esteemed colleagues. She feels too creatively centered in Charleston to pack up just yet.
Photographs (3) By Rae Fenice; Images (3) Courtesy of Sally Benedict