Over the summer, Yael Ben-Simon's artwork came into focus on Instagram, through Gallery Shelter, a New York-based gallery.

'Gladiators Fight and Die in Flowers', her debut solo exhibition, found its inspiration in Alexander Pope's 'An Epistle to the Earl of Burlington,' playfully critiquing the use of classical statues in garden decoration.

yael ben simon in her studio in new york sitting on the table , in the back two paintings
Yael Ben-Simon Artist in her Studio in New York | Image Courtesy by the Artist:

Embracing the profound marriage of literature and art, Yael Ben-Simon embarks on a captivating and eloquent creative odyssey, where words become brushstrokes on the canvas of her imagination, crafting a unique narrative that beautifully harmonizes the written word and visual expression.

Interview: Yael-Ben Simon with Munchies Art Club Magazine:

In your studio practice, you've mentioned the challenge of distractions, including spending time on social media.

How do you navigate these distractions and maintain focus on your intricate, layered paintings? Can you share any strategies or rituals you've developed?

I’m constantly struggling with the issue of time management. Learning how to use studio time effectively is one of the things for which there is no manual.

Each artist has to write hers according to her own specific needs and goals. Since my work relies heavily on computer work -  for modeling, color picking, composition and even research - I am always traveling from the canvas to the screen and vice versa.

Yael Ben-Simon on Instagram: “I will be at the galley tomorrow 2-5pm @shelter_gallery come say hi ⛲️💐⭐️”
yyaelbensimon on July 21, 2023: “I will be at the galley tomorrow 2-5pm @shelter_gallery come say hi ⛲️💐⭐️”

Yael Ben Simon -> Instagram

This creates easy conditions for me to wander off, to look at social media or dive into random rabbit holes. I haven’t devised a water-tight method to combat these bad habits (nor do I necessarily think one exists) but what I can offer is perhaps a more forgiving approach to it.

Acknowledging, for example, that Instagram has turned into a valuable working tool for many artists, leads to the understanding that there is no way to completely avoid it.

yael ben simon emerging contemporary artist art practice
In the mindset of an Artist: Studio View Yael Ben-Simon | Image Courtesy by the Artist

Besides, we need to take into account that distractions are somewhat necessary in a studio setting that is ideally a site for play, experimentation and daydreaming as well as work.

What you can do is limit its use, for example through “screen time” options in iphone or if you’re on a deadline, setting specific goals for a specific periods of time. Ebooks and podcasts are also useful tools to create a nice flow of work.  

yael ben simon at shelter gallery art now in new york, great emerging artist discovers 3 D printing and combine
Yael Ben-Simon: Son of Niobe2021, Acrylic, silkscreen medium, and oil on canvas, 36 x 36 in | Shelter Gallery

You mentioned the book "Tiepolo Pink" by Roberto Calasso as a recent literary fascination.

How does literature influence your artistic process, and are there any other books or authors that have had a significant impact on your work?

‍Yes, the literary world has a tremendous effect on my work.

My thought process is porous and constantly influenced by the things I see and read. I love to read, both fiction and non-fiction and that seems to infiltrate my work.

For instance, my series of works from 2018 called “Never Let Me Go” is based on a book by Kazuo Ishiguro with the same name.

yael ben simon shelter gallery new york, with an exhibition view
Yael Ben-Simon: 'Gladiators Fight and Die in Flowers'at Shelter Gallery | Image Courtesy by the Artist

This dystopian sci-fi novel is set mostly in an English boarding school that has a very grim backstory. Without divulging too much, I would only say that the part in it that inspired me to make this series has to do with children's drawings as a testament to a true spirit of creativity and thus humanity.

The paintings utilize old illustrations of continents (themselves taken from an old emblem book that I’ve been working with in previous works) that are made to be paper again.

As a nod to the storyline in the book, I’ve “cut” animal shapes in a way that blares borders between dimensions, between 2D and 3D.

study for a new piece of art, based on a book, cut out green
From the Studio Yael Ben-Simon | Image Courtesy by the Artist

‍Part of my fascination with literary works also stems from my obsession with archives of old prints and illustrations.

Lately, I have been looking at old book illustrations from the 19th century. For instance, in my last work, “The Sun Is Sick” I’ve inserted a copy of a print by Gustave Dore that was part of his illustrations to the book “The Baron of Munchausen”.

shelter gallery new york, with an exhibition view
Yael Ben-Simon: 'Gladiators Fight and Die in Flowers'at Shelter Gallery | Image Courtesy by the Artist

The painting places at its center a classical sculpture depicting the son of Niobe. In a defensive stance corresponding with the tragic nature of this myth, he is pleading with the gods to spare his life.

The Dore illustration, depicting a feverish sun, is strategically placed behind the figure as a placeholder for celestial beings. Responsible for his faith.

The relationship between these seemingly unrelated historical layers help to create a sort of a fantastic ruin, an idiosyncratic mental space that is activated by strange meetings.  

contemporary painting now
Three Figures with an 1853 Almanac2022, Acrylic, silkscreen medium, and oil on canvas, 30 x 40 in | Shelter Gallery | Image courtesy by the Artist and Gallery

The use of 3D modeling as a reference for your paintings is a unique aspect of your creative process. Could you elaborate on how this digital dimension enhances your work and provides you with new artistic possibilities?

In my paintings, I place Greco-Roman statues in playful settings that evoke the fantastical. I render their images using 3D models of real statues from real collections, which I then screenprint onto the canvas.

Looking for these models on various platforms online is somewhat like rummaging through a scrapyard, looking for treasures, but only in this case, they are part of everyone’s collective cultural heritage.

shelter gallery new york, with an exhibition view
Yael Ben-Simon: 'Gladiators Fight and Die in Flowers'at Shelter Gallery | Image Courtesy by the Artist

Essentially a 21st century equivalent of the cast, the 3D model is a superior form of reproduction. My translation of digital data to paint on substrate is only the last leg in a long journey of repetition and translation for them.

Starting their lives as singular physical objects, the statues have since been copied in various forms and techniques that altered every aspect of their exteriority.

3D scanning and modeling allows yet another crucial step on this road.

two contemporary paintings from the current exhibition a shelter gallery new york
Yael Ben Simon: Exhibition view "Gladiators Fight and Die in Flowers" | Image courtesy the Artist and Shelter Gallery

By using these new technologies I metaphorically release the statues from relative obscurity and/or the confines of a room.

I view this ongoing series as my humble attempt to place them back in the bloodstream of contemporary art and to spark curiosity in the viewer about them and the culture that produced them.

Hopefully I can take part in the conversation about canon, tradition, and originality that I think is also relevant today.

What characterizes our current relationship to antiquity? Can we even forge a new one after so many recurring cycles of fascination, oblivion and even indifference?

My work reflects on these issues at a time when new and powerful tools are being created to understand and copy them better than ever before.

shelter gallery new york, with an exhibition view
Son of Niobe 2021, Acrylic, silkscreen medium, and oil on canvas, 36 x 36 in | Image courtesy by the artist and Shelter gallery

Yael , your flag series explores the symbolism of flags and their historical significance.  In the contemporary context, flags have emerged as potent symbols within various socio-political movements, ranging from nationalist rallies to right-wing movements.  

Could you expand on how your work reflects or comments on the resurgence of flags in the context of new nationalism, patriotism, and recent events such as the US election campaign, COVID-19 protests, and even pride demonstrations?

When I started making my flag series it was just before Trump took office in the US. It was then when I started to witness the many ugly phenomena associated with his rise that have since been thoroughly discussed and analyzed.

munchies art club magazine about the emerging artist yael ben simon , with her art practice , some quesitons about her work and some gallery images
Yael Ben-Simon: 'Gladiators Fight and Die in Flowers'at Shelter Gallery | Image Courtesy by the Artist

In light of this dismal turn of events, I was fascinated with the place social and national allegiances hold in our lives, and to what extent is the flag a perfect symbol for that.

Researching their origins opened a treasure trove for me when I discovered that the modern flag is a rightful heir to medieval standards and banners that were adorned with various coat of arms symbols.

Using this archaic visual language allowed me to comment on the power of the flag while not being overtly specific and ultimately didactic.

flag in history and in contemporary art, stars and strips
Victim of Stars2023, Acrylic, silkscreen medium, and oil on canvas, 36 x 46 in | Image by the Artist and Shelter Gallery

I was interested in transforming the flag and exploring its graphic and physical qualities as a way to dismantle its pernicious allure.

By creating imagined fantastic flags adorned with characteristic lions, eagles and other fantastical creatures the viewer is encouraged to consider them as objects rather than potent symbols of nation states.

In addition, I’ve also painted them in various contorted positions that created humoristic instances that help deflate their mythical status.


Yael Ben-Simon lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. She has had solo exhibitions at Natasha Arselan Gallery (London) and Soo Visual Arts Center (Minneapolis).

Group shows include Geary Contemporary (NY), Mad Eye Gallery (NY), Moskowitz Bayse Gallery (Los Angeles), and Thierry Goldberg Gallery (NY).

Ben-Simon has been awarded residences at Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts, NYFA, MASS MoCA, and Wassaic. She holds an MFA from The School of the Art Institute in Chicago (Painting/Drawing, 2015).

exhibition view shelter gallery new your on view paintings by yael ben simon, first show
Exhibition view : Shelter Gallery N.Y. with Works by Yael Ben-Simon "Gladiators Fight and Die in Flowers" this August | Image Courtesy by the Artist and the Gallery

Read more about the Exhibition at Shelter Gallery New York "Gladiators Fight And Die In Flowers" .

Yael Ben-Simon — Shelter

Gladiators Fight and die in Flowers -> Shelter Gallery

The Website of the Artist Yael Ben-Simon for further Informations.

Support the Artist With A Follow On Instagram 

Yael Ben-Simon on Instagram: “Today and tomorrow are the last days to see my show, “Gladiators Fight and Die in Flowers” @shelter_gallery open till 6pm Thank everyone who visited so far! I’m immensely greatful for this opportunity, given to me by the lovely @partygirlrachel and @tylerbrandon.xyz 💐💐 #sheltergallery #yaelbensimon #lesgalleries #nycartist #contemporaryart”
yyaelbensimon on August 5, 2023: “Today and tomorrow are the last days to see my show, “Gladiators Fight and Die in Flowers” @shelt...”

Yael Ben Simon -> Instagram

Team Munchies Art Club says thank you to to the artist Yael Ben Simon for the wonderful insight about her work and art practice.

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