Ben Tollefson

Ben Tollefson (b. 1985, United States) lives and works in Savannah Georgia. He studied painting and sculpture at Wisconsin Lutheran College and subsequently worked at The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C. While there, he worked with ‘Art Links to Learning,’ an award-winning K-8 education program designed to integrate arts into District of Columbia Public School classrooms. In 2011, Tollefson moved to Savannah to pursue a painting degree at the Savannah College of Art and Design. While working towards his M.F.A., he held the position of co-owner and Director of Public Relations and Special Events at Non-Fiction Gallery, a vibrant contemporary art gallery in the city’s Thomas Square neighborhood. Since graduation, he held a position as the Museum Coordinator at the SCAD Museum of Art and currently serves as the Assistant Curator of SCAD Exhibitions. In this role, he has curated solo exhibitions by Jane Winfield, Summer Wheat and William Singer. Tollefson creates paintings concerned with the tension between the real and artificial. He has exhibited his work in solo and group shows in Alaska, Georgia, Virginia, Washington, D.C, and Wisconsin. His most recent solo exhibition “Paradise” was presented at the International Gallery of Contemporary Art in Anchorage, AK. 

The environments and bodies depicted in my paintings are a metaphor for our fabricated reality. Recent works employ collage as a launching point. The collages are made from various lifestyle magazines that bombard readers with contrived concepts of perfection. Through painting, I take ownership of, twist, and reconfigure these constructs, creating my own imitation heaven. 

I push my paintings to an excessive degree of finish, eliminating traces of brushstroke. The works are made through layers of thin paint, leading to a rich opacity. Conceptually, this approach allows me to create paintings that are grounded in their sources: crisp, luxurious images of paradise. 

The construction of gender and beauty, and the bombardment of unattainable perfection through ‘realer than real’ screens are some issues that inform much of my work. I question what is real in a culture in flux, one in which we are increasingly confronted with an excess of simulacra rather than sincere experience. 


Instagram: @bentollefson