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Foliage bursting into living rooms. Houses floating in trees. Dynamic paintings of how natural and built spaces invade one another.

Brooklyn-based Ben Grasso received his BFA from the Cleveland Institute of Art and his MFA in painting from Hunter College, New York. His paintings have been featured in solo and group exhibitions around the US and Italy, including shows at the Queens Museum in New York, Jerome Zodo Gallery in Milan, and Detroit’s David Klein Gallery. Grasso continues to explore the relationship between nature and archictecture in his latest pieces, which are on view through July 14, 2013, at Thierry Goldberg Gallery in New York City.

All images used with permission, copyright © the artist, all rights reserved.

The Morning News:

Tell us about your process. Where do these images come from?

Ben Grasso:

I take a lot of photos, but recently I have been taking images from Google searches and advertisements. I like the compressed and already-mediated nature of these images. Usually I’ll print a dozen tiny thumbnails onto one sheet of paper and work from that. I like these compressed images’ lack of information because it gives not only me a starting point but also an opportunity to move the image around a bit and guess on the details.


How do you know when a piece is finished?


I draw a lot and build up to an image through layering. And I tend to work on many paintings at once rather than one after another, from start to finish. I don’t normally think in a linear way so it never made sense to decide on a beginning and an end for one painting and execute it. A painting might have a lot of incomplete ideas on its own but paired next to something it might generate a dialogue. I imagine I’m finished when I don’t feel I need to add anything or cover anything else up.


Is there a contemporary artist—painter or otherwise—with whom you particularly identify?


There were a lot of painters coming out of Germany who I really wanted to paint like as I was discovering them. I can still see a lot of their influence in my work, and I’ve been trying to remedy this by changing subject matter. Recently, in my show here in New York, I started working from advertisements and think these may have a different sensibility than my earlier work. Those images, from advertisements, have a ready-made element to them and so a lot of the decision making and amending is taken away or it’s already resolved. I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes.


When are you most satisfied with your work?


I don’t know if satisfaction is the right word, but usually a few years after I have been away from something I’ve worked on or spent a long time with I can appreciate my labor a lot more. Distance is refreshing. One of the difficulties of being a painter is the number of hours we spend alone. I might labor over something for a long time and wonder if I should have stopped a few weeks ago or if I haven’t done enough. As the author you see all the decisions, amendments, mistakes, process, etc. In that way you never really see the thing until it’s in another context, or it’s out of sight for a long time. That’s my favorite experience with my own work: to see it with a new set of eyes.


What is your favorite thing to do in an airport?


I like to imagine I can guess if people are locals en route to another destination or tourists on their way home—or sad layover people.

Karolle Rabarison is at home wherever she can satisfy her coffee habit. She currently lives in Washington, DC. More by Karolle Rabarison